Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Quebec Election and the Angry Canadians

On a sunny afternoon, in my favourite Montreal neighbourhood, both the Quebec election and the hysterical reaction in English Canada, seemed very far away.

Which was a good thing eh?

Because following the election campaign from Toronto and a beach in Maine, has been very exhausting. And the reaction in English Canada has been entirely predictable and totally depressing.

Fretting about a referendum that may never happen, calling Quebecers racists, or in one angry comment after the other demanding that they be expelled from Canada.

When in fact Quebecers are not racists, Quebec is the most progressive province in Canada, and a bastion of resistance to the Harper Regime. And one might wonder who are the real racists?

Commentary about Quebec from outside the province, often from those who cannot read, write or understand French, too often displays the gusto of the uninformed and the sunken story line that “they” are not like “us.”

And how dangerous is their ignorance?

When you’re a tiny linguistic minority on a continent, and a linguistic minority within your own country, you are always going to worry about language and culture – although the concern is sometimes carried to ridiculous levels, considering that French has survived and thrived for four centuries and is hardly on the way to extinction. Nonetheless, when you are part of a minority, you have collective nerve ends that people from the majority cannot easily comprehend.

Because that failure to comprehend, that naked hostility, and the hatred most Quebecers feel for the Con Regime, are the real threats to the survival of Canada as we know it. 

Oh well. At least the election is going more or less as I hoped it would. It appears as if Jean Charest is going to be punished for his cynical attempt to win an election by waging war on the student movement...

Only to have the students go back to class, or call a truce, and leave him looking like an IDIOT.

As for Pauline Marois, she may be too much of a salon bourgeois for me, and clumsy and annoying like so many of her PQ generation, when it comes to the question of how best to defend the French language.

But at least she'll probably be reined in by a minority. At least she has some good people in her party.

Like the former student leader Léo Bureau-Blouin...

Who is just one of many young candidates running for office.

Also if Québec solidaire does well, as I hope it will, it could form an alliance with the PQ and help shape a less defensive, and more positive and progressive agenda.

And at least Marois and the PQ are in a position to form a serious government.

Which is more than I can say about François "Lego" Legault and his right-wing clowns from the CAQ Party...

Because trust me, you don't have to know who Bob "Elvis" Gratton is eh? Although it helps.

To know that Lego is making it up as he goes along, and he'll say ANYTHING to get elected.

Yup. It should be a fascinating election night. Democracy is alive and well in the great French nation in Canada. The only person who should be afraid is Stephen Harper.

The Cons and the angry Canadians should go screw themselves. 

And of course, after the election. Whoever wins.

The struggle will continue...

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  1. e.a.f.6:32 AM

    it certainly will be entertaining when the PQ resumes power in Quebec. I guess stevie slime will have them arrested or at least have their planes brought down if they have a banner.

    I have never worried about Quebec leaving. Some of the First Nations own a lot of land & they may not decide to leave with the rest of them. They may decide to actually resume their own nationhood.

    1. hi e.a.f...at this point I don't think anybody has to worry about Quebec leaving Canada. Even if she did win a majority, which is extremely unlikely, with support for sovereignty at 28 per cent, that option is going nowhere....

  2. Replies
    1. hi Oemissions...If I had voted I would have voted for them I'm sorry that QS didn't win more than two seats. But having Françoise David in the National assembly will be a huge plus....

  3. Anonymous7:28 AM

    I love the video!

    Don't trust the PQ as far as I can throw them, but love the people of Montreal.

    1. hi anonymous...I'm not a supporter of the PQ because the party is dominated by an old guard who are not left enough for me, and are too obsessed with identity issues, at a time when other problems in Quebec society are far more important. But I don't demonize them either, because they are a legitimate political option, and as we saw with that shooting tonight, the consequences can be horrible....

  4. You and I agree, I am sure, on almost everything Simon. But I continue to believe that the roots of most language "laws" which are of a punitive nature, have their roots in racism. The "English Only" laws passed in many US states are presented as "cultural protection" and they are racist. Language laws in Quebec are also racist. My daughter manages a retail store in Montreal and has been visited by the so-called "language police" who came will rulers to measure the size of French vs English everywhere in her store. Besides being comically absurd, such practices are rooted in racism. The left has been all too quick to absolve the PQ and other so-called separatists of policies that we would condemn anywhere else, and they have done so simply because they claim that the PQ is "progressive" in many ways.

    Taking the "racism" out of the picture I think it is clear that leftists would condemn many of the language laws in Quebec if they were enacted anywhere else and I don't think we should accept a double standard. And as I said in my blog, if Quebec gained independence such laws would quickly become the subject of legal battles in the international field.

    I lived in Wales where they brought their language back from being a "dead" language to a thriving one. And they did so in a positive, progressive, non-punitive way.

    Resist colonialism. Resist the right. But Walt Kelly's adaption of Commodore Perry's famous quote always plays in the back of my mind - to wit: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

    1. hi kirby....we do agree on most issues, but I believe you're wrong on this one. First of all we have to accept that Quebec is a nation, which is hard for some because they confuse nation in the French sense with the English word for country. They have also had to struggle to protect their language from the English conquerors like the infamous Lord Durham who sought to erase it.
      Their collective history is full of stories of small humiliations and anecdotes like the story of the mythical fat lady at Eatons who told French Canadians to "speak white."
      The also live in the middle of a sea of Anglophones, and next to the greatest cultural beast in the United States. So the language laws were a way of redressing that balance, and since they made the Quebecois feel more confident about their future, they did a lot to keep Quebec in Canada. I know that the so-called language police, like other bureaucrats in Quebec can be a real pain. And I have always argued that the province should do more to enhance the use of French in more creative and fun ways. But I think leftists sometimes make the mistake of equating
      language and race. Because while you can't change your colour, you can learn a new language. So it's not racism. Also, it's not fair to compare what the Welsh have done, or what the Scottish are trying to do, because both native languages
      may have been rehabilitated to a certain degree, but most people don't know or use them to live their lives. Finally, having lived among the Quebecois I can say that they are a very warm and tolerant people, having experienced oppression themselves.They don't attack other Canadians like they are regularly attacked in English Canada. And to see the most progressive society in Canada attacked as racist or xenophobic really bother me. And as the shooting at the PQ victory party tonight demonstrates it can lead to a very dark place. I realize that stating this position, or trying to bridge the two solitudes, won't make me popular with either side, but I try to be as honest and open minded as I can, and I feel the need to speak the truth as I see it, before ignorance leads to tragedy....

    2. I do appreciate you postion Simon and I also think that this forum is too limited to really discuss such an issue in the depth that such a topic needs. Obviously I don't think all Quebecers are racist but I believe (and have seen for myself) that what begins as a positive moment becomes prey to more negative impulses. I also believe (with great French literary theorists like Roland Barthes) the the long-standing impulse to "control" the language of French (in France with the Académie française as well as elsewhere) has been responsible more than anything else for killing the French language. And I have seen it in action because not only is my spouse a Francophone but all of my children went to French school.

      I think one can attempt to make an argument that Quebec is facing a kind of neo-colonialism but have seen real neo-colonialism in action in Central America when I lived there, I think this argument re Quebec is a weak one at best.

      Your argument concerning "language vs race" is also weak if not entirely specious. The fact that someone can change their language does not mean that racism is not at the root of the problem. It pains me that you would make such a specious argument particularly when we have seen the effort to force Indigenous Canadians to abandon their language, and we all know that racism was at the root of this problem. This brings us to the problem of native people in Quebec and it is the Indigenous people that have resisted Quebec separatism more than anyone, and I think that they, having been subject to centuries of racism, understand why. I feel so strongly that this is a specious argument on your part that I urge to to consider it more carefully. I have come to respect your work and opinions a great deal and truly believe that such an argument leads you into dangerous territory.

      PS. The fact that Welsh is a "native" language (and by the way Welsh is arguably the only "native" language in the UK) does not mean that the comparison is problematic, and just pointing out the fact that they are "native" languages does not constitute an argument. Welsh faced as many, and I would say more, than the French language has anywhere. I also think Basque would be a good comparison. Again complicated issues that can't be covered here.

  5. Anonymous10:55 AM

    Simon: Have you seen this: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/31/poll-forum-stephen-harper-approval_n_1846157.html
    Not surprised, this is what I have always thought to be the case. Blaming the system/Liberals/Trudeau/every one else except themselves for their own setbacks.

    Bet you these are the angry "Canadians" -- they likely think of themselves as the "real" Canadians. lol

    1. hi anonymous... yes I saw that and it made me chuckle. I always wondered why Alberta had so many angry old guys. Although I hasten to add that not all the old guys in that province think like that, because some of them read this blog and they are really nice And there is some good news, the 18-34 year-old women are with us. Woohoo !!!! ;)

  6. Anonymous11:47 AM

    Not all Quebecors are racists, very true. But the PQ is feeding the worst kind of "Pure Laine" bigotry for the rest of Canada to see. Many aren't fooled about what kind of "progessive" place Quebec is.

    If some of their stunts were pulled anywhere else in Canada, people like you would be the first to decry it! But for Quebec, there is always some excuse, no wonder the province is slowly dying.

    1. hi anonymous...I don't disagree that Marois' PQ has been beating the language drum a little bit too hard, in an attempt to appease the old times in the party It's irritating and definitely annoying. But young Quebecers don't feel that way I assure you.
      I can honestly say none of my anglophone friends feel the slightest bit threatened by the PQ or even the prospect of another referendum. I'd rather not have one, but it's only a vote, and we can always vote NO.
      Finally, Quebec is the most progressive province in Canada. It's the most anti-Harper place in the country, and policies like cheap daycare and their approach to rehabilitating juvenile delinquents, clearly sets them apart. So the irrational hatred many English Canadians direct at them is absolutely inexcusable....

  7. Anonymous12:24 PM

    You are so right Simon, the moronic middle of the road media is confusing at best, insulting at worst, and we all remain ill-informed, though I try to read different things so that I know, as much as possible, what is going on..I'm sure that Quebec will survive all these pretentious and ignorant attempts to 'explain' La Belle Province ...

    1. hi cityprole...like you I believe that education is the key to better understanding each other. Because I have both sovereignist and federalist friends, we all get along together, and when both sides are attacking me for criticizing both sides, I know I'm winning. ;)
      As Marois herself said in her victory speech, we share a lot of history together. And I would rather celebrate our differences than have them drive us apart....

  8. Anonymous2:35 PM

    Canada is a free country, or at least it used to be. If the majority of Quebec citizens want to separate, so be it.

    The Federal election, is still dirty and contaminated. This country is no longer Canada. I think Provinces, would be much better off, as their own little country's. That would get rid of the Federal government and Harper. The theft and waste of our tax dollars, is absolutely obscene. Harper's charity's are, corrupt, greedy banks, mines, big business and Harper's favorite charity, big oil. Harper gives the same company, all the contracts. Canada reeks to high heaven with corruption.

    Canada has become a, shameful, disgraceful and corrupt country, in the eyes of the world. I honestly can't find it in my heart to blame Quebec, for wanting to leave Canada and Harper. I wouldn't blame any province.

    1. Anonymous5:24 PM

      Quebec has been wanting to go it's own way long before Harper came on the stage and no doubt that will not change once he is gone. Still, it is a shell game on Quebec's part. They leave and they will face instant financial ruin. The leaders of the PQ know this, even if they can't admit it to their followers.

    2. hi anonymous... as I've said many times before I would rather see this country stay together. I like the idea of a big country with all kinds of different people. And I assure you so do most Quebecers. Support for sovereignty is at an all time low, and there is nothing the PQ can do to change that. I agree with you that Canada has been debased by the Harper regime, but rather than give up on the country let's just defeat the Con regime. For right now that regime is the biggest weapon the sovereignists have...

    3. hi anonymous....let's not generalize eh? Twice Quebecers have rejected attempts to separate them from Canada. And as I mentioned above, support for sovereignty is below 30 per cent. So it's just not going to happen, and everybody in the rest of Canada should take a valium. Marois and her old guard may like to talk about sovereignty. But that's all it is....

  9. ICC's Chief Prosecutor, found Harper guilty of stonewalling and refusing to co-operate in the investigation, of the torture of the detainee's. They are deciding to prosecute Harper for, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He had also prorogued Parliament, to cheat his way out of answering for his crimes, to the Canadian people. Sounds like the U.S. and Britain, are going to court in the Hague. I don't know if Harper is to be tried, in the Hague or not?

    Harper started out with a, $13 billion dollar surplus. Harper now has Canada, in the worst debt ever known, in all of our history of our Nation. He certainly is the most despised and corrupt P.M. in the history of Canada.

    Our young Canadian boys in WW11, were shot and blown into fragments, so we wouldn't have a dictator like Harper governing our country. Harper is not worth their dying for. I absolutely forbid my young relatives, to go into Harper's military. Harper isn't worth dying for to-day either.

    Well over three quarters of Canadians say, Harper used the robo-call cheat, to win the election

    1. hi Gloria... everything you say is true, but I don't want Harper to go to the Hague. I'm hoping he will be locked up in a jail close to where I live.
      So I can ride my bike past the place every day, and moon him at will.... ;)

  10. Anonymous1:54 AM

    9:57 PM – Today
    Marois speaks to 'neighbours' in Canada

    Listen to me carefully. As a nation, we want to make the decisions about the things that are important to us. We want a country. And we will have it. So yes, we will have relationships and we will do this in respect of the other.. I say to our neighbours in Canada: be open about this.... Quebec needs to become a sovereign country
    10:30 PM – Today
    Montreal police update

    2 injured critically.. 1 arrest.. Shot fired behind the convention centre where Marois was giving her victory speech. A man about 50-years fired on people inside the Metropolis. Then the suspect set fired to the back of the Metropolis.

    1. hi anonymous....yes I saw it happen live and it was truly shocking. I don't want to say anything about it until I find out who did it and why. But one of the reasons I wrote this post is because I can see where this irrational hatred of Quebec and Quebecers is taking us, and it's a very bad place...

  11. Anonymous11:21 AM

    Is anyone really shocked by this? The only place mass shooting like this occur in Canada is Montreal and Quebec City. Quebec society is clearly rotten to the core, the PQ is just the top of the rotten log. They might be tree huggers, but they are still nothing more than closed-minded bigots of the worst kind.

    Oh well, blow-backs a bitch, but Quebecers can't be that shocked when they reap what they sow.

    1. What an ugly, close-minded and inaccurate post, Anon 11:21 AM.

      The Quebecois had to endure a hell of a lot of abuse which stoked their dream to preserve their identity and control their economic well-being. It's a history of overcoming oppression and being the better for it in the long run - the most progressive province in Canada. The original English folk residing in la belle province were overseers who dictated social, political and economic policy with the help of French toadies. Did I feel upset when the executives of Sun Life and other corporate giants fled Montreal when Levesque was first elected? Not at all - they landed in a refugee camp in Toronto called Bay Street.

      It's sad that this Bain fellow lost the plot and killed one innocent and seriously injured another. Is he the harbinger of some Anglo Liberation Front? I highly doubt it. But the English media and politicians outside the province certainly know how to milk the situation to make Quebec francophones out as monsters.

    2. Anonymous10:37 AM

      Amazing. I just reread this post that complains about angry Canadians. To quote the post, "...[they] can go screw themselves.." sounds like an angry Quebecer who didn't notice his own anger. It's not credible when people angrily complain about the anger of other people. This is the angriest part of Canada I have visited as of yet.

  12. Anonymous9:56 PM

    They were oppressed, sure. But they lost a war after all! That being said their treatment was softer than some others, they weren't deported so they can thank their lucky stars for that.

    As for defending themselves or "Mother France". On the whole the Quebec population could barely lift a finger to help other French speakers in their time of need. That says a lot about the people of Quebec, and none of it very positive.

    Quebec is only "progessive" in the minds of people who are willing to look past their most obvious forms of bigotry. The face that they are "pro-union", "pro-green" and anti everything else doesn't change the fact that Quebec is nasty xenophobic place teaming with bigots.

    You should have felt sad when those companies left. Quebec is an economic backwater, now. A weaken leech that feeds of the rest of us. It won't change, until the rest of Canada finally rubs some salt on that great blood-sucker.

  13. Anonymous7:41 AM

    Who says that Quebec is more racist than Canadians as a whole? They do. They were surveyed and admitted that they were in a national survey. A French acquaintance of mine said recently to me, "you know-it's awful the racism of some Quebecers.". THen he went on to say, "but it might be justified in the case of the Jews. They don't get parking tickets in Westmount because they [the Jews] control the police in Montreal, and they flagrantly ignore the traffic rules." When asked where he heard it, "from my teacher [at UQAM]". I think he had no idea that this was a racist comment by he and his Fracofphone teacher. That says that maybe the survey understated the number of racists in Quebec.

    My experience is appalling. I have been here 4 years. I have heard more anti-semitic comments here than in 50 years of being in the states. So when you say that Quebec is not racist, I would beg to differ. I think it is.

    My neighbor made it clear, "we don't hate English here-and at least you try to speak French [to me]". She continued, "we just hate the Jews". Another QUebecer, hearing this, said "yes, the Jews keep to themselves and deserve to be disliked, especially the ones in Outrement". This is more common here than anywhere I lived in the U.S. I hear it regularly.

    Here is a reference to the study on racism that shows Quebec higher than Canada-in fact, it was the most racist province in Canada, though this article doesn't mention that.