Protecting French ... Again

Anglicisation du Québec

The week in Quebec started with the continuation of another battle in the never-ending language and culture war. Gasoline giant Esso, and its majority shareholder, Exxon Mobil, were attacked by the usual alliance of Francophone xenophobes because the company wanted to use its corporate name "On the Run" instead of "Marche Express" on their stores attached to their gas stations. Esso was denounced as a "cultural predator," and caved in to threats of a smear campaign and calls for a boycott.

In Quebec almost everyone caves in to the menace of the guardian thugs of "Ein Volk, Ein Kultur", "One People, One Culture". Kudos have to be given to Chris Karidogiannis, citizen soldier, the independent businessman who has collected almost 50,000 names on a petition to stop Montreal's Mayor Tremblay from renaming Avenue du Parc, which runs through the heart of the largest ethnic neighborhood in the city, Avenue Robert Bourassa. It was stunning when Mr. Karidogiannis mentioned on my radio program that the reason Park Ave. was chosen instead of the Bourassa family's preference for renaming Boulevard St.-Joseph was that the latter street runs into separatist areas and separatist leaders told Tremblay that they wouldn't stand for the name of a provincial Liberal leader in their areas. Tremblay buckled. Thuggery makes no cultural distinctions. Thugs will eat their own.

The sad part of the whole "Quebec" question is in the remembrance of things past. When Pierre Elliot Trudeau affirmed official bilingualism in Canada it was an inclusive expansion of rights meant to demonstrate to the country that neither of the two founding European cultures had superior rights and that there was place in this land for all. But in Quebec, the "protection" of the French language has resulted in restrictive exclusion of rights. Nothing can justify the draconian laws used here over the past three decades. The police-state inspectors' tactics measuring the size of English letters on signs and the political propaganda that perpetuates the big lie that some great injustice was done to a native Francophone people in its native land is unacceptable in a free society. But as Stalin said, "The broad mass of the people will accept a big lie rather than a small one if repeated often enough."

It is time to say to Quebec "sa suffit!" "It's enough!" The French came to this land as imperialists killing the aboriginals. The English followed for their King killing French and aboriginals and giving a third of the country to the Hudson's Bay Company. Canada is not a federal state in the European tradition where its component parts had centuries of history and decided to confederate. When Canada became a nation most of the country was wilderness. There is no moral basis for slowly eroding Federal powers in order to keep Quebec happy. Quebec has no moral basis for any more sovereignty than any other province. If separatists want their own country let them ask a straight question of Quebecers...all Quebecers. "Do you want Quebec to be an independent nation?" Not the convoluted ramblings about sovereignty and association.
There has been a sad acceptance, by federalist Francophones and Anglophones alike that it is better to sacrifice some rights in order to avoid a separatist Quebec. Except it has never worked. The more powers have been devolved to Quebec, the more all Quebec Premiers of whatever political stripe have demanded. Including the sharing of Federal powers of taxation and immigration among others. Perhaps in the current debate about transfer payments, Quebec should be reminded that the 1954 Provincial election was won by Duplessis on the issue of Quebec collecting its own taxes and crediting back a share to Ottawa. Those credits never happened in 52 years. So who owes what to whom between Ottawa and Quebec? The Francophone imperialists may not like the answer.

Even a staunch federalist like Stephane Dion, the father of the Clarity Act, succumbed to the argument that Quebec's retrograde language law, Bill 101, was vital to keeping Quebec in Canada. That argument holds no water. Because since 101 more and more Federal powers have devolved to Quebec because of Quebec's ever-growing demands, while this jurisdiction blithely goes along suppressing basic rights. Quebec is getting everything it wants in terms of independence while still keeping the benefit of Canadian passports and pensions and paying as little of its share of the national debt as possible. Not a bad deal all around. So why quit the union? And what of federal consequence? Reduced to nothing more than "ribbon-cutting" as Trudeau predicted almost two generations ago if the national government was going to emasculate itself and become impotent. Who will speak for Canada today in Trudeau's voice from the early 90's when he said that the Charlottetown Accord deserved "A big fat no!" That is what Quebec deserves today. You can't build a country on the back of injustice and inequity.

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Beryl Wajsman14 articles

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

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