These happy looking fellows are the Jeunes Patriotes du Québec, a fascist organization dedicated to Québec independence, and apparently, saving old churches. The JPQ organized a protest over the weekend to demonstrate their belief that Québec’s religious heritage ought to be better preserved. Currently, the Archdioscese of Montréal wants to tear this 105 year-old Hochelaga-Maisonneuve church down and put up social housing on its spot.
The young patriots base their argument on the idea that our religious heritage is sacred, and that the church, for better or for worse I suppose, forms an indelible mark on the culture and personality of Québec. That the RC Church held the Québecois people under their thumb for over a century, abused countless children and kept our society in the long shadow of Norman provincialism seems lost on these thugs, who would like you to believe they are guerilas (again, its all just a guess, the rhetoric of their website is confused to say the least). Moreover, even though most of Québec society is secular – and has been better off for it – the JPQ wants you to believe that Québec sovereignty is somehow related to Vatican real-estate, and what they choose to do with it. As far as I see it, the JPQ is simply tail-hooking an issue for urban preservationists, and in the process turning a simple question about what to do with an old church into a clarion call to arms to protect Québec from … somehow, English people (?). If a broken, unused old church is torn down – perhaps even recycled – and replaced with social housing units, does that mean we’re lose something about our cultural identity as well?
So which is it – are we uniquely devout Catholics or independently secular Modernists? Or are we Enlightened hypocrites? Its tough, and I can’t come up with a simple answer. The complex one goes like this: I can’t escape the long-term psychological impact of living in a Catholic society – hopefully I can use it for good and it will colour my worldview in a unique and palpable way. Ergo, don’t tear down old churches, find new uses for them. But when common-sense sustainable urban planning gets mixed up with ultra-nationalist opportunism, the credibility of the preservation movement takes a hit. This is why casual association with this group, or any other form of extremism – even if it is only rhetoric – is anathema to the success of the broader goal of social-cohesion through good design and conservation.
But when these idiots show up, it gives the impression that we don’t know our history or culture from a hole in the ground.
Here’s a video they made of their marching band. Just because they look, sound, and act crazy doesn’t mean we should ignore them. And if Québec ever needs to become an independent nation, whoever’s in charge should make sure they’re dealt with first.
There’s little more dangerous than a self-proclaimed patriot with no idea what he’s supposed to be defending.