It was outrageous for Globe writer to attack Quebecers

Report blaming ‘pure laine' francophones for shootings insulted all Quebecers

Affaire Jan Wong et The Globe and Mail




Such an ugly thing : a columnist for a major newspaper used the Dawson shooting, a human tragedy, to sprout her bigoted vision of francophone Quebecers.

But let's not let [Jan Wong ‘s words in the Globe and Mail->2009] make us miss the forest for that poisoned tree. The forest is the amazing courage, dignity and solidarity that the students, staff, teachers and administration showed in such horrendous circumstances.

Unfortunately, her words were so vile that indifference is not an option. Still, [La Presse columnist, Lysiane Gagnon->2070], comlained about what she called the ‘overreaction' to Wong's diatribe that linked “racial purity”, Bill 101 and the “marginalization” of immigrants in Quebec to the killings by Valery Fabrikant, Kimveer Gill and Marc Lépine - three men not of ‘pure laine' stock.

This, Gagnon wrote, only shows how Quebec is thin-skinned. But there are reasons for the many reactions, including a letter to the Globe by Premier Jean Charest on the same day that he attended Anastasia De Sousa's funeral.

The first reason lies in the nature of the event itself : the work of a deranged man who, like Fabrikant and Lépine, was in desperate need of psychiatric help.

In a time of tragedy, it is wrong to spill venom on the society that's going through such a senseless event and doing it for compassion for the victims, their familiels, their friends and the Dawson community.

The second reason is that most Quebecers have had their fill of prejudiced comments from the likes of Wong, expressed over time against them, their institutions and their laws. The skin grows thin when scratched too often.

Since the rise of modern nationalism in Quebec, in its sovereigntist and federalist incarnations, other journalists, writers and politicians have questioned the ability of francophone to respect minorities, as if francophones suffer from some racist deviation that the rest of Canada is immune to.

While we rightly denounce anti-Semitism or other forms of xenophobia, we hesitate to call views like Wong's what they are : francophobia. But like anyone who sees his identity sullied and belittled, you bet there'll be a reaction. It's called self-respect.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a letter to the Globe, saw throught he purulence and identified the target of that article : “Quebec francophone society”. Harper called the piece an excuse for “printing prejudices masked in the language of social theory.”

The third reason for all the rection has to do with where the ultimate responsibility lies: the Globe and Mail itself. Wong's piece was not a column. It was a news report presented as a reconstruction of the events at Dawson.

So this isn't about the freedom of expression of a columnist whose views can or cannot reflect those of her paper. Wong, a sometimes columnist, was writing as a reoirtubg “reconstructing” that day based on facts.

If Globe editors had felt the slightest hesitation if seeing Wong's “reconstruction” reflect on the paper, they could have turned it into an opinion piece. Instead, they put a great deal of emphasis on the story by giving it major play on the front page of the Saturday edition and a two-page spread in the first section.

Adding insult to injury, yesterday's Globe editorial, while saying there was “no evidence” that “marginalization and perhaps alienation of non-francophone Quebecers” could be linked to the shootings labelled the language laws as “politics of exclusion.”

It also presented this so-called marginalizastion as a given, adding that wondering about the effects of Quebec's so-called “politics of exclusion” is legitimate and that the answer to that query is “arguable.”

Besides giving top billing to Wong's report, this shows that the editors of the Globe might share more of their journalist's views than we'd like to believe.

To see a national newspaper, not just a lone columnist, harbour such views in its editorial is certainly the most shocking and troubling of all.




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