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Quebec’s identity-and its ongoing identity crisis–centres around the French language, even though Parisians dispute that French is actually spoken in Quebec. Other defining habits are separatism, referring to English Canadians as “exploiters” or “swine”, and not showing up for constitutional and resource sales conventions organized by the federal government to appease them. Quebecois enjoy tearing down English-language signs, using real estate under native land claims for golf courses and hydroelectric sites and eating caramelized maple sap laced with atmospheric sulfuric acid straight off the snow.
As a Globe and Mail op-ed piece asked the morning after the April 7, 2014 Quebec provincial election, “Who would have bet, just 33 days ago, that Philippe Couillard would become the 31st premier of Quebec?” Couillard, for those of you who sensibly don’t follow these matters with bated breath, is the head of la belle province’s Liberal Party, which sent former Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and her independence-minded Parti Quebecois to a crushing defeat. The Liberals ended up with a solid majority government, Marois lost her seat and promptly resigned as PQ party leader, and the possibility of yet another overheated referendum on the question of Quebec independence recedes from view once more.
As almost all observers (including Dooney’s Election Central/Election Centrale) noted, it was hard to find any clearcut issues or vital principles that the election was about. Alternative parties to the PQ/Liberal binary, such as the Coalition Avenir Quebec, picked up a full 25 per cent of the vote, but we have no idea what they stand for, either.
Naturally, the Liberals sought to make fear of separatism the issue. Premier Marois dutifully produced an alleged all-star candidate, Quebec media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau, who immediately called for a free Quebec while wiggling his fists or his fingers in the air. It did not help the cause (however, running in a safe riding, M. Peladeau now has a legislative seat — Bonne chance et bonne nuit!, as fellow journalist Edward R. Murrow used to like to say). [Click here for Google translation. Just kidding.]
There was one interesting issue. The PQ government proposed a “Quebec Charter of Values” that would prevent state employees from wearing or displaying conspicuous religious symbols, such as Jewish kippahs, Sikh turbans, hijabs, niqabs and other Muslim face and body coverings, or dragging a heavy wooden cross to work if you were feeling especially weighed down that day. However, the bill exempted the large Christian crucifix on display in the Quebec National Assembly as an item of cultural heritage. (Are we making this up? No, we are not making this up.)
Although the charter was offered as a response to the “reasonable accomodation” controversy in Quebec (usually in reference to Muslim believers in the province), most people saw the proposal as a convoluted bit of anti-Muslim discrimination. Matters weren’t helped when a prominent supporter of the charter, famous tv host Janette Bertrand, voiced fears that Muslim men would have turned her away from her apartment building’s swimming pool. That didn’t help the cause, either.
We confess to a secret liking for the now d0rmant charter. It would certainly be nice to get rid of all that public junk by which religiously-inclined people shove their beliefs down your throat. If their beliefs were true, we wouldn’t mind it so much. But it’s unlikely that they are true. There’s only one problem with getting rid of conspicuous religious display. It’s illegal in a country that protects religious freedom, free speech and other good things. And anyway, this is Canada, where we tend to put up with lots of stuff we don’t necessarily agree with, simply because we believe in tolerance, equality, being nice, and all the rest. It seems to work.
As for the Charter, as we say in legal lingo, Adjourned sine die. Or, like, later dude.
Attempted tourism Mecca and Quebec capital. Quebec’s government is so addled by Anti-Anglo madness that it is selling off the Plains of Abraham for condominium development.
It is almost impossible to say anything about the Quebec Question that doesn’t dissolve into instant cant, thanks to rednecks, sentimentalists, and a lot of truly mean-spirited people on both sides of the issue. Maybe the main point of the Quebec Question is that there is a serious question, and it deserves an answer. It isn’t enough to simply ask “What does Quebec want?” and then tie, bind, and gag the question with sloppy metaphors about marriage, divorce, sex and raising children. The true question reads more like “What would be a reasonable political arrangement for a hybrid-state historically shaped by trees, rivers, snow, and by francophone, anglophone and aboriginal immigrants, resulting in a diffuse national identity that has subsequently been diffused further by substantial further waves of human immigration from environments and cultures radically different those that founded it? Probably more important than asking ourselves stupidly obtuse questions is that we stop looking for simple answers to the questions under our noses. There aren’t any simple answers. Other countries have figured out how to live with autonomous regions, self-governing peoples and even patchwork solutions that are far sillier than anything we’re proposing. But almost anything would be an improvement on the present trajectory of the country, which seems intent on an absolute devolution of confederation into a loose association of shopping megamalls.
Titular head of Canadian state and world’s sole sensate reigning monarch. Elizabeth’s considerable political and diplomatic skills, notwithstanding her evident lack of any parenting ability, should make her the common sense choice to rule Canada after the self-overthrow of the federal government is complete.