It’s quite a twist. At 25e day of an election campaign that was said to be useless and boring, the devil got down to business. Rarely have we seen François Legault so angry, moreover, trembling with emotion in the face of these “attacks” against Quebec. “To claim that protecting French is discriminatory or even racist is ridiculous. It is not true that we will be given lessons on this by anyone! He repeated the day after the last leaders’ debate, the only one in English.
So there it is, the “ballot box question” – at least in Quebec, because this famous debate fell on the country like a guillotine, rolling the head of Quebec in one corner and the body of the ROC in the other. For what remains of this campaign, we will probably no longer live in the same country, the two solitudes having resumed their rights as never before.
In Quebec, therefore, the issue of the day no longer concerns climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous people, the safety of large cities, daycare centers, not to mention how to end this pandemic. It is not a question of better preparing for the future; it is a question, if one relies on the instructions given by the Prime Minister himself, to protect what we already have, our “competences” and our “autonomy”. To look behind while healing old wounds, rather than looking ahead.
Small clarification before explaining why such a fight seems to me an empty shell. The question put to the leader of the Bloc Québécois during the last leaders’ debate was utterly contemptuous, unacceptable, in addition to being confused and poorly worded. The affront deserved to be underlined, it is clear. But from there to declaring the “Quebec nation” threatened in its values and its competences? From there to claiming that all of Quebec is found in this junk nationalism?
If François Legault was still a convinced sovereignist, then his anger would at least have a direction. But we are delusional, in my opinion, if we believe that this emotional manifestation of the Prime Minister – punctuated moreover by the famous phrase of Robert Bourassa (a Quebec free “to assume its own destiny”) – announces a possible return. to the country project. The meaning of all this theater was already written in Mr. Legault’s call to vote conservative, launched just hours before the disgraceful debate last Thursday.
Ignoring conservative positions on the environment, firearms, child care, forgetting even the shortfall under a possible Conservative government – there would not only be much less money for child care, but also less transfers of equalization – François Legault reacted to only one thing: the promise of non-interference in the fields of jurisdiction of Quebec.
That the Caquist leader is ready to sacrifice important social measures just to make sure he has free rein, to reign as king and master on his territory, says a lot about his state of mind. Recalling the thunderous national affirmation of the “cheuf” – Maurice Duplessis invented the concept of a well-guarded provincial fiefdom – Mr. Legault chose a show of force rather than an improvement in the living conditions of his fellow citizens. As a country project, we will have to go back.
The conservative siren song (“we respect the provinces”) is all the more attractive because it includes the promise not to challenge the Law on the secularism of the State. A possibility that would disrupt the reign of François Legault, that’s for sure.
For now, on the strength of this last illustration of Quebec bashing in front of millions of spectators, the conductor can play the valiant knight of “Quebec values”, a concept as vague as it is misleading. First of all, we do not find values in Quebec that we do not find elsewhere in Canada – with one exception: the defense of the French language, the only distinctiveness of Quebec. Using a different language also implies a feeling of vulnerability and a need for survival. Two things, it is true, that English Canada has never fully grasped. But can we speak here of “values”?
For the rest, gender equality and, of course, secularism, it is in no way specific to Quebec, but on the contrary very widespread democratic values. Moreover, Law 21 reflects less the need to resolve a religious problem – the separation between Church and State being already well established – than the fear of going back. For some, this obsession with the past amply justifies the law. It could be debated for a long time, but one thing is clear: by prohibiting certain members of religious minorities from the full exercise of their rights, the law is, until proven guilty, indeed “discriminatory”. It’s not just English Canada or Judge Marc-André Blanchard who think so. Why would the law be protected by the notwithstanding clause if there was no fear of its annulment precisely for that reason?
To claim, as the Prime Minister does, that all of Quebec is rising today to “defend its destiny” is to wring its neck out of a much more complex reality, while lowering nationalism at the small end of the line. lorgnette.
On Twitter: @ fpelletier1