The chattering classes of Quebec are in high dudgeon this week over some idle speculation printed in [Saturday's Globe and Mail. There journalist Jan Wong->2009], a former Montrealer, suggested the common thread in three Montreal school shootings was ... language!
She linked together last week's Dawson tragedy, the Polytechnique massacre and Valery Fabrikant's murders this way:
"What many outsiders don't realize is how alienating the decades-long linguistic struggle has been in the once-cosmopolitan city. It hasn't just taken a toll on long-time anglophones, it's affected immigrants, too. To be sure, the shootings in all three cases were carried out by mentally disturbed individuals. But what is also true is that in all three cases, the perpetrator was not pure laine, the argot for a "pure" francophone. Elsewhere, to talk of racial "purity" is repugnant. Not in Quebec."
This utterly unsubstantiated and mysteriously illogical connection, or implication of a connection, will leave most Quebecers, of all persuasions, scratching their heads.
Almost as absurd was the reaction to her assertion, which was seized upon by some nationalists as just the latest proof that "rest of Canada" not-so-secretly despises Quebec, and that federalism can't work.
"English Canada is too quick to tolerate Quebec-bashing," claimed Bloc MP Maka Kotto.
Even [Premier Jean Charest sent a letter to the Globe->2043], calling the article a "disgrace."
The last time Quebec got all riled up about the musings of a columnist in a Toronto-based paper - Barbara Kay in the National Post, when she referred to "Quebecistan" - journalistic veteran Alain Dubuc in La Presse scoffed at her term but suggested this is in fact "Nombrilistan" - the navel-gazing capital of the world.
Perhaps it's normal to be a little concerned with what your big neighbour thinks of you - "rest of Canada" reacts the same way to any stray negative comment in U.S. media.
But it's tiresome and embarrassing to see various special-interest groups - on la question nationale, or on gun control, or any other issue - try to make use of a tragedy to score their little points.