Friday, March 30, 2007

"Fed" up

I know you’ve all be dying to hear what I have to say about Quebec’s recent provincial election. Well, okay, here it is.

I’m tired. I’m absolutely tired and fed up with Quebec.

I’ve been around the boards and newspaper commentary areas and the whistling in a graveyard out there among anglophones is shrill to the point of deafening. So many of them are crowing about the rising star of Mario Dumont. Ha ha, they’re saying, the Parti Quebecois is dealt a mortal blow! No more separatists! Hurray for Dumont the federalist!

Yeah, except he isn’t. The guy is just one more Quebecois weasel who’ll do and say whatever’s going to squeeze the most sap out of Canada till the tree shudders and falls over. He was a front man for separatism in the 1995 referendum. He’s come right out and told us he’s not a federalist, but so many people want so much for this nonsense to be over once and for all that they just clap their hands over their ears and sing “O Canada” in French that much louder. Worse, he’s a conservative. At least the PQ were fairly left-wing. This chap leads that deep, quiet, but omnipresent strain of Quebecois nationalism that’s tied not so much to ideas and principles as it is to race. It’s not enough to speak French; you have to be French. White. Original stock; pur lein. That kind of thing. The Quebec of the backwoods that never really participated in the Quiet Revolution, but is asserting itself again. The ugly xenophobia that’s been building since multiculturalism robbed Quebec of its understood status as the other society in Canada. Now we have to deal with that. And you people are happy?

Look at this map. See those red areas? That’s all that’s left of Canada in Quebec. Anything in blue is practically foreign soil. You are not welcome there. You are not one of them. They do not want you there; they do not want to share a nationality with you. You are foreign. You are alien. You are either born one of them, or you aren’t. And if you aren’t, you can never be. And the dark blue areas voted for the ADQ. Why are federalists so happy?

I understand Quebec’s aspirations, and I’m not sure they can be realized within Canada. I wish they could, but there are limits, even in a federation. I think we’ve done a good job to accommodate them in recent decades, but apparently it’s not enough. I’m not sure the centre can hold. I hope so. But I’m not seeing any evidence of it. Quite the contrary. When I was a boy, Quebeckers voted for the same parties as the rest of us, at least federally. There was a separatist party provincially, and they did come to prominence, but at least on the national scene, they participated. That’s changed in recent years, thanks at least in part to Brian Mulroney’s ass-hatted, ham-fisted attempts to trump Trudeau and remake the Constitution in Quebec’s image. “I rolled the dice with Canada!” he trumpeted. Yeah, and lost. His party blew to smithereens for 15 years and gave birth to a separatist party at the federal level, and prompted the 1995 referendum that nearly carried the country off into the dustbin of history. Yes, thank you, Brian. Please go to hell, and soon.

All my life, and for several years before, English Canada has been working, consciously, to accommodate Quebec. Changing. Adapting. Asking questions, listening to the answers, and acting on them, at least as far as practicality allowed. And with every step, every turn, we’ve flung our arms wide, hoping for the embrace… that never comes. No, what follows is always one more step away from us, and the demand that we must take another step… and another… and another. But Quebec must never embrace us. No, to do that, to participate, to engage in this thing we’ve built together over centuries: that would be humiliation. Diminishment. Abject surrender.

I’m not asking Quebec to love us, and I certainly don’t ask or want them to kiss our ass and call it ice cream. But for God’s sake, 1759 was a long time ago. We’ve been on the same team for a long long long time now. Can’t you find a little pride in the uniform? The games played, the championships won (and sometimes lost)? Does it always have to be sulking on the bench, screaming to be traded, a free agent, while expecting all the perks of being on the team? That’s really, really getting old, folks. Honest. Yeah, we’re all tired of living with a reluctant roommate who feels free to help himself to whatever’s in the fridge but doesn’t feel the need to pitch in, help out with anyone else’s dishes, and expects everyone else to forgive him his share of the rent this month cause he had to buy a cool new stereo… that, of course, no one else is allowed to touch. And all the while, moaning about how hard done-by he is, and dreaming loudly of the day his family finally gives him his inheritance so he can move out to some glorious condo filled with mirrors, while shafting the rest of the household with the bills.

I’ve never had cancer… God forbid. But I have to imagine that in less lucid moments, having cancer as part of your body must be a little like having Quebec as part of your country. It saps your strength, taking resources from other organs, always demanding more as it grows and grows on what it’s already taken from you. You live in constant pain, and every waking moment is consumed with the knowledge that, sooner or later, it’s probably going to kill you. Except this cancer talks. It taunts you, mocks you, makes demands under blackmail. Tells you you’re abusing it, neglecting it, and that’s why it’s a cancer. It talks gleefully about how it’s one day going to spring from your body as a whole other being, while you drop dead without it. It threatens to kill you all the sooner if you don’t give it what it wants. There is no winning. No real bargaining with it. No satiating it. It will just take and take and take until it decides the time is right to finally destroy you in its own selfish interests. And people are celebrating the rise of Mario Dumont… a whole new tumor. A metastasization to other parts of an already troubled organ.

I’m tried of it. Tired of being scared, of making deals, of initiatives that not only go nowhere but are actually resented. How dare we try to pressure them by spending money to convince them we’ve changed, we like them, we accept, we understand? How dare you bring me roses and ask where I’d like to go to dinner? You creep. I don’t know… maybe it’s too little, too late. But damn it, I can’t help feeling that the effort deserves recognition. A kind nod of the head, even if it is too late and divorce is inevitable. But we don’t even get that.

So, fine. You want to go? Go. Just say so loudly and distinctly, without promising your kids they’ll have access to my bank book. Insure us free transit back and forth between Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, take your share of the debt and your share of all the federal infrastructure, planes, ships… and bon chance, mes vieux. Have fun setting up your embassies, your laws of cultural orthodoxy, your neo-‘White Australia’ immigration system to protect you from women in veils… And when you can’t pay the freight for your social safety net (sorry, the transfer payments end when you split) and your population rapidly ages and shrinks because next to no one wants to move to a Quebec without the advantages of being part of Canada, and when you can’t get imports in French anymore because 32 million virtual francophones nationwide the world would grudgingly service have been reduced to only six million real francophones who represent a market small enough to be told “like it or lump it; speak white”, and when it snows on what should be a beautiful sunny day in May, well… I know you’ll all still be blaming les anglais and their wicked, evil, Quebec-ruining ways, far, far into the future. It’ll be our fault for centuries after you leave, I know. It’ll never, ever be your fault.

Except it already is.

We tried. You didn’t. Adieu.


Philthy Phil Philantropist said...

Wow... you start by saying that the Quebec people is a bunch of racists, then proceed to claim that Canada is so accommodating with Quebec (remember 1982's Night of The Long Knives? Meech? Charlottetown?).
Then you end with a nice metaphor with Quebec being the cancer of Canada. I guess you think Trudeau federalism is the cure?

I will put your senseless rant on the back of ignorance rather than stupidity. I suggest you visit Quebec sometimes and see for yourself if we are the monsters you describe.

You are right, 1759 was a long time ago: back then, French hated the English and the English just didn't care about the French. Now in 2007 it's seems like the opposite... ROC hates Quebec, Quebec just ignores ROC and their (now almost daily) Quebec bashing.

You are one of the reasons why separatism isn't dead yet.

loneprimate said...

remember 1982's Night of The Long Knives?

Yeah. Do YOU remember that Levesque broke ranks with the Gang of Eight the evening before by agreeing to side with Davis and Hatfield when Trudeau dangled the prospect of a referendum on the partiated constitution, thus giving Trudeau the mandate he needed to go to London with the backing of provinces representing 50% of the population, causing the other seven to cave in for the best deal they could get? I'll bet you don't. No, it's too easy to blame the English, isn't it? The Night of Long Knives, not the Evening of the Long Knife, huh?

I will put your senseless rant on the back of ignorance rather than stupidity.

I spoke out of weariness and hopelessness. Ignorance I'll gladly leave to you.

I suggest you visit Quebec sometimes and see for yourself if we are the monsters you describe.

Been there, done that; have family there; I'm 1/4 French myself. Still fed up being the only one dancing to the music.

ROC hates Quebec, Quebec just ignores ROC and their (now almost daily) Quebec bashing.

Quite the opposite is the case. We don't hate Quebec... we've been working to accommodate Quebec for forty years, and you've done pretty well out of it. I can't think of many other countries that would have put up with a perennial secessionist movement; the one due south of us certainly did not. Generally speaking, it's English Canada that says "whatever". Quebec seems to spend its nights waking up from nightmares of wasps stinging frogs to death... we couldn't care less anymore. On the other side, we have this:

In an attempt to stiffen the resolve of nationalists, the PQ also intends to make gestures that will exploit anti-Quebec sentiments in ROC so as to illicit insults and threats against Quebec and French Canadians. As Parizeau said in December in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, "Get me half a dozen Ontarians who put their feet to the Quebec flag and I've got it."

You are one of the reasons why separatism isn't dead yet.

Give us just a small break already. The xenophobes who want to turn Quebec from a part of a multicultural First World country into a tiny little ethnic preserve of 17th Century France with 21st Century SUVs don't need emotionally-exhausted anglophones like me as anything more than their excuse. You guys made up your minds and charted your course long ago.

Polt said...

I'm aware of the generalities of what you're talking about. I'm just curious, because I don't know enough in depth stuff to really know, but what if Quebec suceeded tomorrow and became it's own country, with the provisions you mention, what would be the effect on the rest of Canada?

I mean, governmentally, economocally, socially, etc. I don't know, and am just curious.


L-girl said...

Polt, if you're interested, there was a long discussion about this on my blog... a long time ago. I believe the post is called "let them go" if you want to look it up.

Very nice post, LP. I've been here for such a short time, and I frequently catch myself thinking similar thoughts, albeit less well-articulated.

A lot of food for thought. I need to go through it again to digest. :)

loneprimate said...

Polt, I wish I could help you. No one knows. There are a few examples of peaceful secession in the 20th Century, but just a few. And every case is different.

What I do know is, if Quebec ever manages to ask a referendum question that isn't full of weasel words or "promises" that are actually obligations it's places on Canada that the federal government isn't obliged to keep, and they get a clear majority in favour, then the Supreme Court has said that a democratic state is morally obliged to deal them out in good faith. But just exactly what that means, we won't know till the ink's on the deal and the people have had a chance to vote on it. There's next to no doubt in my mind that something this momentous cannot be accomplished without a binding national referendum.

There are any number of complications. There are large parts of Quebec — either federalist or largely English-speaking or First Nations — who have said that if Canada is divisible, so is Quebec, and that they would demand the right to secede from Quebec to remain in Canada. Quebec denies this, but logically and morally, they're on shaky ground. It's probably no big deal if the Eastern Townships or the West Island leave Quebec... but if the Cree and Inuit take Ungava out of Quebec, that would carve huge areas of mineral and hydroelectric resources out of the province.

I guess in the long run, it's probably going to happen sooner or later. It'll be an interesting ride. It will probably plunge the nation into a long, deep recession as foreign money flees the uncertainty of the country; immigrants will hedge their bets and move to stabler prospects... Canada will never be the same, on so many levels. And that's why upsets me. These people will, almost unquestionably, diminish both Quebec and the rump state that is Canada (assuming it survives as such; there are no guarantees). It will be an example of the sum of the parts being less than the whole. But if the sure knowledge they never have to hear an English or foreign word uttered again, or to compromise with someone different to achieve a goal, or to share power with anyone different is really what fills their hearts, then ultimately, I don't see how this fate can be avoided.

It takes two to tango, at least in a bilingual country. These days, we're dancing with ourselves. As Jefferson Davis said when the doctrine of states' rights undermined the effectiveness of his government and made the task of the Union that much easier, "If the Confederacy falls, there should be written on its tombstone: DIED OF A THEORY." Though our sputtering, faltering experiment has endured much, much longer, still, it could end up that the CSA might not be the only North American nation with that epitaph.