A nationalism that cannot be appeased

Bill 195 logically follows the mindset that Bill 101 entrenched, defining Quebec society as a place where all are equal so long as they support the supremacy of the French language.

Vomissure raciste et crétinisme paranoïde

Peter Sauve, Special to The Suburban - Nine short weeks ago, Montreal’s local daily marked Bill 101’s 30th anniversary by publishing a pathetic array of articles, penned mostly by the usual anglo apologists, prattling on about how Bill 101 “saved Canada.”
Why, then, all the fuss now about PQ leader Pauline Marois’s proposed Bill 195, the so-called Identity Act requiring demonstrated French-language proficiency?
It’s simply a logical extension of Bill 101’s exclusionary and linguistically-partitionist design.
Bill 195 logically follows the mindset that Bill 101 entrenched, defining Quebec society as a place where all are equal so long as they support the supremacy of the French language.
It naturally builds on Bill 101’s foundation by reminding Quebecers who wish to be equal citizens that they must first embrace linguistic inequality.
Regrettably, this political paradox isn’t limited to what most English-speaking Quebecers see as the bad boys and girls of Canadian life, namely, Quebec’s separatist parties.
It constitutes, and will continue to mandate, the way the Quebec Liberal Party and all federal parties do business in Quebec.
Except on referendum nights, English-speaking Quebecers and their language rights don’t count in the French-language nation-state of Quebec.
When it comes to deeds over words, not one major Canadian political party disagrees with the Quebec-nationalist slogan, “101 or the 401.”
Much to their credit, younger Quebec anglophones seem to have cut through the reams of propaganda on both sides.
They got the message, only their continuing exodus isn’t the choice that our pro-Bill 101 federal establishment had hoped for.
That the United Nations — and the half-million-plus Canadians who’ve left Quebec over its linguistic intolerance — oppose a law that a rare few anglo journalists continue to justify shows just exactly who is out of step with true liberal values.
Regrettably, even Charles Taylor, the McGill philosophy professor who co-leads Quebec’s commission on reasonable accommodation, has roundly and repeatedly praised Bill 101 as “an inestimable gift” to Canadian society.
Yes, the man who will inevitably co-sign a report condemning discrimination glowingly embraces the most discriminatory law in Quebec’s history.
Bill 195 is but the latest evidence disproving the anglo-editorialists’ argument that Bill 101 saved Canada.
Indeed, Bill 101 saved a particular vision of it — one that compromises civil rights for superficial social peace, and whose imminent demise can only be welcomed.
After all, no Canadians died at Vimy Ridge, in Italy or in Germany fighting for a Canada that included Bill 101.
But the Charter of the French Language hasn’t been all bad.
On the positive side, Bill 101 has been most instructive in showing Canadians their country’s less-than-pretty inner workings.
Domestically, it showed that Quebec anglos can live in Mississauga or Calgary just as well as they do in Westmount, NDG or Pointe Claire.
Pragmatically, it showed that anything, linguistic cleansing included, is possible in a free and democratic society — as long as you do it etape par etape, and marshal enough militant clout on the national stage to press your agenda into law.
Further, from defaced English signs and anonymous threats to vandalized offices and broken store windows — Bill 101 showed that, in Canada, political and social aggression works.
Politically, it showed how Canadian governments selectively create, fund and legitimize pro-Bill 101 anglo lobbies to push their bi-everything interests at the expense of English Quebec.
It even showed how quickly a once-great federal Liberal party could sink to electing a leader who insists outlawing English constitutes “a great Canadian law.”
Academically, the Charter of the French Language showed how brilliant Canadian professors can easily recognize social injustice and discrimination in history books, but struggle to do so in their own backyards.
And journalistically, Bill 101 showed us who’s asleep, who’s a sheep and who’s for sale.
Professionally, it showed us which lawyers get rich defending unjust laws, and which suffer by defending civil rights.
Economically, it showed that despite all our Canada Day happy-talk about bridge-building, freedom, founding peoples and nation-building, Canadians’ political character is ultimately motivated by the two forces that drive Wall Street — greed and fear.
Most of all, Bill 101 showed that, just as there are many ways to be a federalist, so are there many ways to be a secessionist.
Indeed, it showed all who value freedom over borders that the two are rapidly becoming mutually inclusive.
For decades, anglo Liberal MPs, MNAs and media types preached compliance in the name of tolerance and surrender in the name of bridge-building.
Unlike most of us, what prompts their present outrage over Bill 195 is their long-overdue realization that Quebec’s nationalism cannot be appeased — its leaders don’t stay “bought” as anglo politicians do.
And the genie isn’t going back into the bottle.
So, if you accepted Bill 101 as the price of social peace, then there’s no reason why you can’t open your Liberal songbook and, once again, respect the nation-statist sensitivities of the Quebec majority, and put even more water in your wine.
For that matter, if you accepted the Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional accords’ recognition of Quebec as a distinct society, then you should now respect French Quebec’s wish to walk your talk.
And if you accepted Bill 101 as the price of “saving Canada,” then think of Bill 195 merely as the price of your having accepted Bill 101.
Peter Sauve is a Montreal journalist and former Quebec-affairs columnist.
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