Mario Dumont, Immigration, Quebec

No redemption, no refuge

Too often in Quebec the message is wedded to “One people, one culture.” And that message is proclaimed, directly and subliminally, so often that it has created a culture viewed by many as having a veneer of prejudice.

Quête identitaire et respect de la diversité ne sont pas incompatibles - sauf dans l'esprit des salisseurs patentés




I received a letter this week that contained the following thought from Lord Acton: “It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority. For there is a reserve of latent power in the masses which, if it is called into play, the minority can seldom resist. But from the absolute will of an entire people there is no appeal, no redemption, and no refuge.”

It is apt that it arrived at the same time that Mario Dumont raised another issue about protecting the “culture” of the majority in Quebec. This time it wasn’t about reasonable accommodation. It was about immigration.

Few debates in recent years have gone to the heart of the pathetic delusions of the Quebec malaise as starkly as those that seem to flare up with such intensity when Mr. Dumont brings them up. Unwittingly, he holds up a mirror to the Quebec reality. And like the “Portrait of Dorian Gray", its reflection is not pretty.

On the face of it, Dumont’s words seemed tame. Dumont said, “Your number of immigrants should not exceed your capacity to welcome them and integrate them, otherwise they create ghettos.” He claimed Quebec had reached that limit. Yet this simply is not so.

Quebec’s population growth is below projections from the 1990s. Parizeau’s family allowance schemes have not produced his desired results. Quebecers are having less children than ever. And immigrants, as always, take on some of the toughest jobs around. So what’s the problem?

The problem seems to be with “welcoming and integrating.” And that has for too long been a problem in Quebec. For too long, even through the supposedly happy encounters with progressive politics since the days of the Quiet Revolution, exclusion has been more in evidence than inclusion. Divisions inherent in the parochialism of “de souche” and “pur laine,” more lionized than the threads of common humanity that should bind all Quebecers together. And though immigrant communities in Montreal do tend to band together in neighbourhoods, not ghettoes, perhaps the reason for this lies in the very exclusions and divisions that abound in Quebec.

The debate we need should not be about accommodating the cacophony of growing demands by every group under the sun. Ever-increasing demands based on race or creed or religion are inherently “unreasonable” and no liberal society based on universal principles can “accommodate” every diversity and stand for anything meaningful. The true debate that is needed is about the ability of Quebec to acculturate itself to liberal universal principles. All the current talk in Quebec today about “reasonableness” and “values” and “integration” is just a smokescreen to avoid that debate and to deflect from the daily reality that Quebec can easily slip back to the future. Back to a revived “grande noirceur".

Yet too many try to hide this. In legislative assemblies, universities and press rooms, words are used as a gloss to cover any discoloration in the vaunted Quebec model much as a plasterer will disguise disfiguration on a wall with “faux marbre". False marble. And “faux marbre” is what we are seeing in Quebec’s earnestness and eagerness to prove itself a “progressive” society in its latest obsession with the paralysis analysis on “reasonable accommodation.”

Too often in Quebec the message is wedded to “One people, one culture.” And that message is proclaimed, directly and subliminally, so often that it has created a culture viewed by many as having a veneer of prejudice.

A prejudice that makes Quebec incapable of putting into place what should really characterize a progressive, “integrated” civil society in Canada. An inclusive, secular, bilingual civic structure of public institutions and services that gives no privilege or preference to any group. It was not that long ago that Mario Dumont himself weighed in with his opinion that “Quebec’s values were first inspired by old-stock Europeans and their religious traditions.” Yet he still asserted that Quebec is welcoming to all. So just what kind of immigrants and what kind of integration — what kind of society — does Dumont advocate?
Certainly not Laurier’s kind when he said, “The proudest boast of my public life is that I have been excommunicated by Roman priests and condemned by Protestant parsons.”

Dumont’s comments come too close too often to the “divide and conquer” tactics used by so many “populists” in Quebec’s history. Tactics that have created a large segment of our Francophone majority that is riddled by a self-doubt driven by jealousy of others’ self-belief. From that segment of that majority there will truly be no redemption and no refuge until political leaders in Quebec elevate the public debate with some critical thought and intellectual rigour.
***
Beryl Wajsman, Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal
Beryl Wajsman is president of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal; publisher of BARRICADES Magazine; and host of 940AM’s "The Last Angry Man". Beryl can be reached at: letters@canadafreepress.com

http://www.canadafreepress.com/2007/wajsman082107.htm

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Beryl Wajsman is president of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal www.iapm.ca, publisher of BARRICADES Magazine www.barricades.ca, and host of Corus Radio’s “The Last Angry Man” on the New 940Montreal. He can be reached at: info@iapm.ca.





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