Monkey business about identity

Pauline Marois scores big with her citizenship bill

"Censurez les intolérants"... gros bon sens rhodésien...

The citizens of Hérouxville can sleep soundly tonight, secure in the knowledge that their town council has protected them from attack by killer sacred monkeys.
It was just such an attack last Sunday that claimed the life of the deputy mayor of Delhi. Surinder Singh Bajwa was trying to fight off an attack by what one report described as "a gang of Rhesus macaques" when he fell from his balcony, sustaining fatal head injuries.
Bajwa's killers are among the monkeys that overrun Delhi, encouraged by devout Hindus who feed them in the belief that the simians are manifestations of the monkey god Hanuman.

To govern is to foresee, and even before the news from India had reached these shores, the Hérouxville council had taken measures to prevent a similar attack within town limits.
The code of standards for prospective immigrants the town adopted last January, the one that prohibits stoning or burning women to death (but only "in public places," surely a reasonable accommodation), states clearly "in Quebec, no animal is considered sacred or protected out of religious considerations."
In Hérouxville, Mr. Rhesus Macaque, ain't no monkey god covering your red ass.
Possibly because the victim in the Delhi incident was not a Québécois, there has been no shrieking headline about it on the front page of Le Journal de Montréal, to draw it to the attention of Hérouxville councillor André Drouin. So Drouin neglected to mention the case as a justification for the Hérouxville code, of which he is the author, when he swaggered before the Bouchard-Taylor commission a few days later like the hero he has become to a dismaying number of people.
Not all of these people are French-speaking Quebecers, for many anglophone Canadians too have reservations about the accommodation of some minority religious practices.
But in the rest of Canada, there's no government-appointed commission travelling around providing an official forum, live television coverage and a certain legitimacy for the kinds of opinions that would be ignored if they were uttered on a radio phone-in show.
That is, if they made it onto the air. The Bouchard-Taylor commission gives two minutes of air time to any crank who shows up and raises his hand. It doesn't screen speakers and doesn't use a kill button to cut them off until their time is up. And it has two eminent intellectuals who give them a polite hearing (though there are signs that co-chairmen Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor are starting to run out of patience).
One wishes the Rest of Canada would be so foolish as to fall for the suggestion of Governor-General Michaëlle Jean and provide a similar platform and equal time for its own bigots.
But in the Rest of Canada, there is currently nothing like the hysteria in Quebec over often hypothetical threats from tiny minorities to the identity and values of the majority.
There is no political leadership vacuum there like the current one in Quebec (which has a name: Jean Charest, for whom "premier" is becoming less a title than an ironic nickname). And there is no competition among political parties to gain electoral advantage by chipping away at fundamental minority rights, as there is in Quebec.
This week's winner in that competition appears to be Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois. Her identity bill appears to have no chance of becoming law, would probably be ruled unconstitutional if it did, and has been condemned even by some members of her own party, notably former premier Bernard Landry.
Still, everybody in the political class is talking about this initiative of the third party in the National Assembly, making the PQ relevant again. And it might turn out that, as with the French Language Charter three decades ago, French-speaking voters like it a lot more than the French-speaking intelligentsia.
After all, the voters might say, what's wrong with making new arrivals to Quebec speak our language? Isn't everybody now in favour of Bill 101?

Now, if only somebody would protect those of us who don't live in Hérouxville from those monkeys.

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