This article was originally published on Forget the Box.
I was remiss to discover that a recent poll suggests maybe as many as 42% of Anglo-Québécois thought of splitting the province and moving elsewhere when the PQ got elected back in September.
And a few days later another poll suggested 58% of Anglo-Québécois said they feel comfortable and integrated into Québec society, enough so, I would imagine, that they feel no urge to leave.
This number needs to be far higher, but it takes a community – a real, tangible community – to do something about it. A community that doesn’t exist by virtue of handouts from various levels of government, nor to please care-taker cabinet ministers, one which carves its own path as it sees fit, secure in its ability to fund and stimulate its own growth and development. If Québec’s Anglophone community can do this, we could secure Québec’s place in Canada.
And why not, what’s not to like? Québec is a good place to live, despite the corruption and high taxes. We have an evolving social state that can provide immense benefits you simply won’t find elsewhere in Canada. We live with tangible public freedom, safe and secure from too much external pressure. And if we figure out how to become masters of our domain we can and will achieve a prolonged economic resurgence, one immeasurably beneficial to all strata of our society, further serving to position Québec in its rightful place within Confederation – the voice of progress, the province of the future.
Québec has potential. Québec is a safe bet.
Besides, with every new generation of Anglo-Québécois, we become more integrated and better adapted to this society, and our inherent integration better suits us to the evolving global village in general – we become international citizens by virtue of the society of our birth. This, in conjunction of what we perceive to be an unstable socio-political situation at home convinces some to leave permanently; our numbers have indeed been reduced by roughly a quarter-million people over the last forty years. But for those who stayed, our acceptance of bilingualism has quite frankly put us in an excellent position to reap the benefits of multilingualism and multiculturalism as personal lifestyle choices.
So why not choose to be Anglo-Québécois, the quintessential example of the culturally integrated Canadian?
Somewhat paradoxically, if you don’t feel your French is sufficient enough to live and work in Québec, it’s likely more than sufficient for a wide variety of well-paying government posts throughout the vast expanses of our immense nation. And doubtless you’ll find not only Québécois ‘ex-pat’ communities in all major and minor Canadian cities, but local Francophone populations as well.
And yet despite all this we’re to believe that the French fact in Canada is under immense pressure to assimilate into, get this, a vast and apparently omnipotent Canadian identity, clearly defined as the opposition to everything that Québec is.
The Québec sovereignty movement defines itself in how it is not Canadian, but curiously it also assumes the monolith of Canadian identity, one that simply does not exist.
There is no ROC from which the separatist movement can define itself against, and separatism for that and many other reasons is quite simply a scam.
A nationalist movement based on a snake-oil salesman’s understanding of history, as opportunistic and omitting as you might expect.
As a person who has worked for two non-profit academic organizations that dealt expressly with the articulation and popular development of Canadian identity, culture and society, I can tell you there is no single, definitive Canadian identity. At our best we’re cognizant that ours is an evolving identity striving for a broad set of rights and responsibilities common to all citizens as framework for a modern political identity, but at our worst we define ourselves in terms of what or who we are not. You’ve doubtless heard the warning before – Canada cannot be defined in terms of how un-American we are. So too for that reason, Québec cannot define its character and identity in terms un-Canadian it is. When you look to see what lies tat he heart of Québec society, you find the very roots of Canadian progressivism, and that from which all of Canada grew.
And we’re expected to believe the trunk will live long and prosper while the roots are ripped from the soil; it astounds me how a political party has been able to convince so many of us of the seriousness of their message without ever producing any kind of plan for exactly how they propose to remove an already sovereign province from Confederation.
The PQ tells us not to worry about it – we’ll figure it out as we go along.
It’s not just that the PQ is both inept and lackadaisical in their efforts, it’s that they haven’t really ever bothered to explain to the public what they would do in a simple and straightforward manner. It’s as if they don’t even believe in the likelihood of separation, so much so that they wouldn’t bother wasting the time or energy to draw up a ‘to do list’ of sorts. No, no of course not – under promise and over deliver, right? Keep it vague; keep it emotional.
Ours is tabloid politics. Sensational. Scandal-plagued. An ad-man’s wet dream, presto plastic pop politics, delivered straight to the heart like hot lead from propaganda machine gun. We don’t have a government; we have a bullshit machine that feeds the media, keeping us distracted from the fact that we who disdain and decry the mindless election of the federal Tories have subsequently elected a government with a leader of similarly dubious charismatic qualities and a profound lack of innovative, imaginative spirit or long-term vision.
The students are learning this lesson quite literally as we speak.
So are all the small-business owners who have felt the sting of an inebriated sense of entitlement by a marauding gang of over-zealous ‘language cops’ – have you ever heard of anything quite as absurd as this?
Remove steak from the menu.
Remove WC from atop the washroom door.
Pasta is an unacceptable term in an Italian restaurant.
Use masking tape to cover the On/Off button on your microwave.
And chew on this while we’re at it – the OQLF has a budget of $24.7 million – enough to pay full annual tuition for nearly 9,000 students.
The PQ wasn’t happy at how quickly world media picked up the story and was hypercritical of the current, temporary separatist government.
In her efforts to garner international support, Marois has come up flat, embarrassingly so.
But back to us, those who are smart enough to brush this off and say to hell with it, I’m going to ride this out. How long can idiocy of this magnitude really last?
We can’t speak for all of Québec and we might not be able to do much at the moment to change things on the whole, but we can at the very least determine to coalesce into a more cohesive whole.
If we stay and grow we don’t just secure our own social and cultural survival, we’ll gain economic and political power too. If we stay we’ll eventually attain full acceptance from the Francophone majority, if not full integration. And if we stay, succeed and grow we will also fundamentally change the social and political balance in Canada, for there will be a post-modern Métis society concentrated in South-western Québec, as Québécois as they are Canadian, sustaining itself.
But make no mistake, the people who keep the peoples together will have no choice but to support themselves completely. There’s no White Knight coming to save us; if we don’t save ourselves, by finding our own opportunities, developing our own charities and eliminating out-migration, no one will.
Over the last few weeks the Anglo-Québécois community has felt the sting of a vindictive and comic government hell-bent on the destruction of Canada via the removal of Québec – the original Canada, the place from which all of Canada grew, from where all the money, labour and intellectual capital flowed for the hundred or so years prior to and immediately after Confederation. The PQ will have you believe that Québec has no place in such a nation, and further still has so little in common with the Confederation that it must go forward as an independent country. They’ve been beating this drum for more than forty years, and it’s been about that long that Québec has generally been on the decline in terms of political influence in Ottawa and economic influence nationally.
As the movement developed over the years it moved from the original goals of a) securing the French language through legislation (mission accomplished by the way – Bill 101 as it was written in 1977 is more than sufficient to guarantee the supremacy of the French language in Québec forevermore), b) minimizing the revenue waste and corruption of the previous Liberal and Union Nationale governments (again, job well done – Lévesque’s government from 1976 to about 1981 was one of the least corrupt in Canadian history) and c) re-negotiating Québec’s place in Canada (again, kudos – though the 1980 Referendum was a Federalist victory, Trudeau made good on a campaign promise to repatriate the Constitution and develop a civil rights charter, itself based on the PQ-written Charte des droits de l’homme; the original referendum question was to do just this – re-open Constitutional talks, not independence, so again, I doff my hat in memory of Oncle René).
But as many go-nowhere independence movements, the PQ has transformed into something far less inspiring, and polls continue to suggest that interest in separation is still far too low amongst Franco-Québécois, meaning that regardless of Pauline Marois’ narrow-minded vision, the so-called winning conditions still elude us.
And as such we’re stuck in an interminable limbo.
In the meantime the PQ government has no choice but to feed the machine as it were, and as they backtrack on various campaign promises and make horrific cuts to healthcare and education (something that affects all Québécois, regardless of mother-tongue), and so, true to form (because we’ve seen this many times before), they push increasingly unnecessary, needlessly divisive and draconian legislation designed to fight a war of political attrition against a non-existent enemy.
Enter legislation to eliminate government funding for Anglophone CEGEPS, of which there are five out of 48, with roughly 30% Francophone enrolment.
Or legislation such as Bill 14 that seeks to eliminate the bilingual status of a number of small ‘historically English’ communities throughout the province.
Or another bit of legislation, designed to require many small enterprises to function in French.
You see, the Anglo-Québécois are viewed as suspect requiring such legislation – it’s all too often about making it clear English won’t be tolerated so long as the façade of French linguistic annihilation can be maintained for all the good it does for our overly sensitive local media; geographically almost exclusively found adjacent to the Ontario and American borders they almost exclusively vote against referendums and the PQ. They can’t be swayed to vote in favour of separation, and so because nothing of substance can be done about it, a joker, a halfwit troll enters the arena as custodian of the Anglophone community of Québec. And his office churns out saccharine pop-propaganda, cutely entitled ‘Notre Home’ to remind us we’re Québécois too – that we belong.
It’s insulting, it’s juvenile and transparent in the worst possible ways, but it’s no need for alarm.
To borrow a line from the Simpson’s, the PQ is as impotent as a Nevada gaming commissioner.
Somewhat to his credit, Stephen Harper hasn’t bitten. The alarmist press claims its delicate and conscientious leadership on his part but I see it as simple dismissal. Harper takes the approach of a successful Second World War Battle of Britain bomber pilot – they never bothered learning the names of the green new pilots in their squadrons until at least five sorties, as the chances of a new pilot going down in flames the first time out was so unbelievably high. Harper’s not going to take Pauline Marois seriously until she either does something incredibly drastic (like a Unilateral Declaration of Independence) or has survived several elections and established a majority.
Neither of these scenarios seem likely to me – Marois and the PQ are filling a vacuum until a real party is established. And let me be perfectly clear – the PQ is not a party; it wasn’t created as a party, merely a protest movement to get Québec the recognition and respect it rightly deserved. Today it perpetuates old stories of racial and linguistic divides to perpetuate it’s very own raison-d’être. There’s no vision in reactionary, stifling social policy; Harper will learn that lesson himself in 2015. We can only hope Marois takes off long before that.
In the meantime the Anglo-Québécois needs to keep its collective head.
We cannot become a Diaspora. We don’t nearly have enough self-confidence. At best, if we do nothing, we die out slowly, a cultural oddity of no real significance.
And many of us think that way – tell a minority they’re the cause of the majority’s problems often enough and they tend to believe it. Those who have the means leave, and those who don’t grow sad, hold grudges, begin to hate, etc.
We’ve seen it a thousand times before. We’re human, and not too highly evolved either, because we continue that which does not work, that which has failed so many times before, and we keep it up because it’s all we know – we’re used to it. We’re so unimaginative and easily swayed by mere propaganda we habitually miss the forest for the tress, unable to grasp the reality of our situation.
We’re an odd minority, that’s certainly one way of looking at it, and more often than not it tends towards questioning how we ever came to be in the first place. We’re told we’re rich, powerful, conservative, monarchists even, regardless of who we really are and we truly do. We’re a scapegoat and a political tool. What’s ironic is that those of us who stayed – and who continue to stay – are those who lack the means to adequately safeguard our society and culture against unwanted, coercive assimilation.
The WASPs left long ago, Westmount shed its Rhodesians, and the language of corporate Montreal is most assuredly French.
But most importantly, and never forget this, French hasn’t disappeared, and neither have we.
But we’d nonetheless be very wise to not let the PQ bother us, to simply carry on with what we’re doing, living our lives as we see fit.
he question is not about whether Québec will separate, but rather how long it will take the PQ, as occasional agent of minor governance, to make this province uncomfortable for anyone who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with them, Anglophone, Francophone and Allophone alike.
They’re trying to shore up their position not by attracting new supporters, but by pushing people out of the contest altogether.
The only suitable response for those who have no interest in being dictated to is to learn French, integrate and bring our point to ‘les autres’.
Ultimately, ours is the position of open acceptance, and it’s the only way forward.