Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair believes - apparently in all sincerity - that he has given no offence in describing students from south-east Asia as having "slanted eyes." Consequently, he refuses to apologize to Quebecers of Asian origin or any other background.
He claims a number of reasons for refusing: One, his use of the phrase les yeux brides was not ill-intentioned; two, anglophones in Quebec and elsewhere have deliberately inflated the insult implied by the phrase; and three, the protest made by Fo Niemi, head of the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations, was personally motivated. The group lost 80 per cent of its provincial funding when Boisclair was minister responsible for immigration.
In short, anybody who is insulted by the term is wrong, while he, Andre Boisclair, is right.
We're here to set him straight: It is disrespectful and insensitive to refer to a group of people by a physical characteristic.
Boisclair then made matters worse by trying to make it up to Asians by heaping praise on them. He lauded them for discipline and a strong work ethic, two "model minority" cliches that, however flattering, suggest Boisclair's thinking runs strongly to stereotypes.
If Boisclair had made a real effort to field candidates from minority groups in the current election, people might have cut him more slack. Instead, he has tried to pawn off Quebec-born actor Pierre Curzi as from an "immigrant" background because his parents were from Italy.
Of the 12 PQ candidates said to be of "immigrant background," only three are running in ridings that offer hope of victory. Whether in words or actions, Boisclair's attitude to les autres can only be described as cavalier.