So, what would people think if an anglo bloke heading a federalist institute dumped on les Québécois in a commentary in a Toronto publication? Think of the optics.
Well, we found out this week, eh?
Off with his head.
Some say that Andrew Potter was off base with his critique of Quebec’s social malaise in his Macleans article, and perhaps he did miss the bigger picture — which once again is coming into focus for those with eyes to see in the stormstorm of controversy that has followed, and which many federalists would prefer you don’t see.
A lot of people in Quebec are still missing the point (if they are giving this affair any thought at all). They are failing to understand how many people outside of the province see — and don’t see — the francophone population of Quebec, i.e. spoiled brats who are “ultra-sensitive,” to use a word from a National Post column by Chris Selley, and who take offense at the slightest criticism of Quebec society. And who should be grateful that they have given us the freedoms we “enjoy” now.
We’re talking about a big, beautiful province of eight million people that’s improbably and safely francophone more than 400 years after Champlain named it and more than 250 after Wolfe bested Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham. Quebec has everything that matters going for it and huge room to grow, and its chattering classes can’t let a bad bloody column slide off their backs.
Well, count Premier Philippe Couillard among the chattering classes who couldn’t let Potter’s column slide off his back, because the last thing he wants is for Quebec nationalists to be reminded yet again of the arrogance of their conquerors — and his support for them — and perhaps give the Parti Québécois a lift in the polls. And that’s the last thing the folks running the Institute for the Study of Canada would want, too — though, the institute’s relevance is a mystery to me.
Conquerors? That was 400 years ago, people outside Quebec might be thinking. Let it go . . .
Those people might be forgetting the more recent battles, Quebec’s referendums, and the massive effort by federalist Canada to stymie the dream of sovereignty. Yes, it was war, under the guise of democracy. And if we had won sovereignty, does anyone actually believe the federalist forces would have let us secede and not sent in the troops?
The truth is, the sovereignty vision has not gone away, and the alliance between Quebec and Canada is still shaky. There is nothing natural about it. Many Quebecers still feel like a conquered people, and they want true sovereignty. And that feeling is not going to go away, despite Couillard and his pals and anglo institutions telling us how good francophones have it here and how grateful they should be that the province is “improbably and safely francophone.”
You see, many outside of Quebec don’t understand that it’s not only a language issue. They don’t get that it’s a matter of nationalistic pride. French Quebecers are still living under the thumb of the Mother Queen, all these years after the Plains of Abraham. The wound suffered that day still hurts, and it will always hurt — until the day comes when the vision of Quebec sovereignty becomes reality.
Meanwhile, the federalist forces will continue to try to snuff out anything that might appear to be helping the sovereignist cause. And anyone, like Andrew Potter, no matter that his column had nothing to do with the sovereignty issue itself.
Such is the fragile state of the unnatural alliance between Canada and Quebec. Such is the federalists’ fear that francophone Quebecers will rise up and take back what is rightfully theirs.
Photo: Fête National parade in downtown Montreal. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)