Just as Montreal radio personality Gilles Proulx began interviewing Pierre Curzi on Oct. 19, the line went dead. Mr. Curzi, the Parti Québécois's culture and communications critic, may wish it had remained that way. He began by defending his opposition party's misbegotten proposal to create a Quebec "citizenship" that would deny political rights to newcomers to the province who didn't speak adequate French. Then he went further, after Mr. Proulx suggested that anglophones in Montreal's West Island neighbourhoods (which the radio host sneeringly referred to as "Ontario") wouldn't countenance such a plan.
"We can't change that with a magic wand," Mr. Curzi replied. "If these people want to benefit, as long as we are a province, we can do no more. We can't, for example, suspend their right to vote, because that's a right we cannot control since we are still a province inside the federation. Clearly [evidemment], the day when the country is there, we will control citizenship, which will perhaps have more teeth ..." The implication was that if Quebec became a sovereign nation, even native Quebeckers who didn't pass a French exam might lose basic rights.
Mr. Curzi has since backpedalled. Interviewed by The Gazette in Montreal, he said all residents of Quebec on the day of sovereignty would automatically be Quebec citizens with full voting rights. He wasn't flattering about West Islanders and others like them ("there will always be a core of people who refuse to evolve"), but "we have to respect" that they won't agree with carving Quebec out of Canada. Reversal noted. But when the PQ culture critic's mindset is such that he casually imagines a future where some Quebeckers are stripped of rights in an independent Quebec, we would hope that most Quebeckers, whatever their language, would shudder.
It happens that before he won election on March 26, Mr. Curzi was for decades an actor of note in such Quebec films as The Decline of the American Empire. In fact, he appears in Denys Arcand's latest film, L'Âge des ténébres, whose English title is variously given as Days of Darkness and The Age of Ignorance. A foreshadowing of PQ policies, perhaps.