ADQ captured Quebec-identity issue abandoned by PQ

Charest seems to realize the mistake but Boisclair remains silent

Québec 2007 - Résultats et conséquences

The fallout from the Quebec election is downright fascinating. The shock waves sent by the Action democratique woke up Liberals and Pequistes to a vital issue they had forgotten: the defence of Quebec's identity and values.
Even before the campaign began, Mario Dumont had identified that void and found ways to fill it. As Jean Charest and Andre Boisclair remained mostly silent on the related issue of reasonable accommodation, Dumont simply spoke up.
On the Liberal side, Charest seems to have received the message. Yesterday, the premier's new caucus was sworn in and he rediscovered Quebec's history at the same time. In the Salon rouge of the National Assembly, Charest gave a speech that was as solemn as it was witty.

He told, quite proudly for a change, of how Quebec is one of the oldest and most respected democracies in the Western world. He asked his MNAs to remember they are the continuation of this history. He also told them: "As you swear allegiance to the Quebec people, you are committed to the defence and the promotion of our culture and identity."
The premier even saluted the Parti Patriote that tried to modernize democracy here before Britain crushed the 1837 rebellion. Who'd have thought it?
Over at the PQ, the awakening is even more painful, given that the issues of identity and culture used to be part of its "brand," now that it's stuck in third place. As Boisclair remains quiet, Pequites, young and old, are waking up and smelling the "identity" coffee.
Many now denounce how the PQ gave up on "identity nationalism," which has nothing to do with "ethnic" nationalism, but is an expression of Quebec's values and what it has become: a mostly French-speaking, increasingly ethnically diverse nation.
But it's ironic to see some older Pequistes, including former ministers, complain about the PQ's silence, because they helped create this problem in the first place.
The PQ vacated the identity terrain in 1996, and most of today's whiners went along quite willingly. Traumatized by Jacques Parizeau's referendum- night speech, PQ ministers applauded their new leader, Lucien Bouchard, when he axed the language issue to atone for Parizeau's sin.
Always at the heart of Quebec's identity, defence of the French language suddenly became taboo. Those who dared bring it up were branded as language hawks and ayatollahs by Bouchard and his ministers.
Bouchard even faced down his party members at the November 1996 convention against any strengthening of Bill 101. And his ministers, too scared of the wrath of Lucien, obeyed. If the ADQ finally took over the identity front, it's because most PQ ministers lacked the courage to speak up when they should.
So it was funny to hear Louise Beaudoin, then Bouchard's language minister who fought PQ members on the language issue, alongside him, now complain that nothing is being done anymore. Well, no kidding.
As for today's problem of reasonable accommodation the PQ had run scared from it in the same way it had on language until Dumont scored points with it. Boisclair just didn't get it.
The PQ leader didn't get that this had nothing to do with ethnic nationalism. It was a refusal, as in other Western countries, to let private religious practices, Christian or non-Christian, overtake the public sphere.
Many Quebecers over 40 are fiercely anti-clerical. They're the ones who applauded the deconfessionalization of school boards. People who took Christian religions out of public schools don't take well to seeing practices from any religion being imposed in public.
They see it as an affront to some of the values Quebecers hold dear, including the equality of men and women.
The debate on reasonable accommodation isn't about ethnicity. It's a sign of an increasingly secular society that doesn't fear multi-ethnicity, but rejects the return of conservative religious practices in public.

This growing secularism is now very much a part of Quebec's identity that Liberals and Pequistes, all of a sudden, are rediscovering, thanks to the ADQ.

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