2009/02/25

Please, oh please, Mr Harper, take the Post’s advice

I blog mostly in French for a French audience, but in this post, I want to address English-Canadians and given that Canadian bilingualism is a sham (the only bilingual Canadians are French-Canadians), I take this opportunity to express myself in Canada’s only de facto official language. Here goes:

I can hardly believe this.

The day after I finally get around to ripping on the thugs who succeeded in derailing plans to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, I have to come across this incindiary editorial by The National Post via Chantal Hébert’s excellent blog. Title: Tell Quebec where to get off.

Lovely.

The editorial starts off listing a few battle re-enactment traditions around the world in which the historical “losers” gladly and enthusiastically take part without feeling slighted (Gettysburg, Waterloo and Hastings). It then goes on to say: “It’s too bad Quebec’s nationalists lack such maturity”.

Ok. I actually said something similar in my piece yesterday condemning our own outrage merchants and political pyromaniacs who managed to derail debate about the re-enactment… The thing is that, as a Québec nationalist, I’m allowed to say that. The Post, as a national publication with a tradition of calling for “putting Quebec in its place” and, I presume, with a stake in national unity, isn’t. Sure it’s unfair. Yes, it’s a double standard, but conservative minded folks of all people should understand that life ain’t fair and that the weight of history counts for something. One may hold the legitimate opinion that African-Americans need to get over slavery and Jim Crow now that these things have been eradicated… But you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that if your name is Strom Thurman, walking into a black church and saying it to the congregants’ faces is going to be… well, counter-productive.

And in any case, there are significant differences between the cases cited by the Post and ours. In the case of Waterloo, those who still identify with the losing side don’t also feel that they still have outstanding issues that remain to be resolved with the “winners”. France, rightly, doesn’t feel like England wants to run its affairs or that whenever they have to take a joint decision, England always gets its way. And besides, at Waterloo, the losers were the invaders… it’s easy to be gracious about re-enacting a battle in which your side were the “bad guys” (by today’s standards) that get beaten back. As for Hastings, that was like 1,000 years ago. No one identifies with either side anymore… they’re all Brits now. Maybe when you guys all learn to speak French we can get to that point… but we still have quite a ways to go, n’est-ce pas? Gettysburg is a bit different; many Southerners still feel resentful of the North’s victory. But do you really think you have to go very far in the South to find a south-shall-rise-again type who takes offence at these re-enactments? The difference is they’re not given the platform to express their vues that we give our own wingnuts. (It helps that Northern publications are careful not to tar all proud Southerners as sharing the views of their extremists the way the Post does with Québec “nationalists”)

[BTW English-Canada, you should understand that almost all French-speaking folk in Québec consider themselves "nationalists" even the federalist ones... so when you say "Quebec nationalists", it's pretty much the same as saying "French-speaking Quebecers"]

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of famous battles we can use to compare this with, ever hear of a re-enactment of Wounded Knee?

Now if it was just that, it wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s what follows that really gets my goat:

It was not the only time in recent months, of course, that Quebec had stomped its collective foot and spineless federal politicians had trembled. During last fall’s federal election, Quebecers’ overreaction to a joke by Prime Minister Stephen Harper about cuts to arts funding caused the Tories to promise to restore the grants — some $47-million — if only Quebec voters would support them. They didn’t, but the grant monies were reinstated anyway.

This is really insulting. I can’t decide whether it reflects a willful ignorance of the facts or a deep-seated bigotry towards Québec. (Probably both: a willful ignorance of the facts caused by a deep-seated bigotry towards Québec) The Post would have you believe that we are so over-sensitive that a mere joke, a flippant comment by the PM about cuts to cultural funding, would provoke an irreversible decline in our support for the conservative party. Because, of course, had the PM held his tongue, we would have happily swallowed these cuts, n’est-ce pas? Ottawa can make all the cuts it wants to the promotion of French culture, Quebecers won’t mind as long as no one jokes about it. I mean, you guys know we’re that dumb and unsophisticated, right? Well, the Post sure seems to think so:

Yet one off-the-mark quip about artists’ propensity for pleading poverty while attending gala dinners — a quip Quebecers mistakenly perceived as a slight against their culture– and all of Mr. Harper’s efforts to built bridges with Quebec voters vanished in a puff of smoke.

For the record, the cuts were announced and defended by then Heritage Minister Josée Verner and it was her own utterly inept handling of the situation that provoked all the outrage. Harper’s comment was a side story. And by the time Verner turned around and promised to reinstate the programs (a promise conspicuously not repeated by Harper), she had already lost what shreds of credibility she’d had to begin with (not much) and was not believed. With good reason: To this day, the cut programs have very much NOT been reinstated. The Post lies in this respect.

Of course, if more of you folks actually spoke (or even understood) French and paid attention to our side of Canada’s equation (the way we do to yours), you’d know all this and the Post wouldn’t dare print such dishonest drivel. But you don’t and that’s a huge part of the problem.

The editorial goes on:

The current PM, Stephen Harper, has even declared the Quebecois a nation within a nation — as close are they are ever likely to come to a declaration of special constitutional status — and given the provincial government something of an official presence at international summits of French-speaking nations.

(Emphasis mine)

Uh… you guys are aware the we still haven’t signed the constitution, right? That even our federalists can’t bring themselves to support signing it without some kind of “declaration of special constitutional status” added to it. The goodwill Quebecers showed Harper and the Conservatives on this issue was premised on the possibility (vaguely held-out by Harper) that the “Quebecois nation declaration” would mean something… that it could be fleshed out and built upon. The goodwill started evaporating long before last election as it became more and more apparent that (as the Post confirms here) this was “as close as we were ever likely to get” from Harper Conservatives and could expect no more… except lip service.

***

Ok, so far the editorial has only managed to get my blood pressure up as a “Quebec nationalist” by portraying Quebecers as silly, vain, chip-on-our-shoulder types who throw hissy fits at the first sign of a percieved insult. Fair game and par for the course, I guess (A few of us actually do behave that way). And it’s what National Post readers expect and enjoy about their paper, I imagine. You know, being told how the problem is with everybody else but you. I like my paper to do the same (not). But the next part is where my outrage gradually turns to disbelief, bewilderment and, for lack of an emotion appropriate to the boneheaded logic of what I’m reading, hysterical laughter.

First:

Since October’s national campaign, Conservative support in Quebec has nearly halved. Where eights months ago the Tories rivalled the Bloc Quebecois for first place in popular support, now they stand at third or even fourth in most polls. Last week, a CROP poll found the Tories with 16% support — equal to that of the NDP — and Mr. Harper’s personal popularity below 20%.

That means the Prime Minister and Cabinet can do the right thing without risking their popularity: They have none.

All true enough… but how do you get from that to this?

Enough of the decades of appeasement; it’s time for Ottawa to adopt a tough-love attitude toward Quebec. And who better to do that then Mr. Harper and his Tories? They’ve got nothing to lose.

They can start by reinstating the Plains of Abraham re-enactment and, if need be, providing federal security for the event.

And then the kicker:

Let’s also take away the Quebec chair at the Francophonie.

Wow. Are they serious? Do they not get what a hard-line separatist’s wet dream this sounds like? The title of this post refers to what I imagine separatists who desperately pine for a way to return support for Quebec sovereignty to its post-Meech, pre-Charlottetown levels would think when they read this. Because, folks, if Harper and the Conservatives follow this course of action, it will drive moderate nationalists like yours truly right into the arms of the hard-liners.

Obviously, the National Post is more concerned with the fortunes of the Conservative Party of Canada than with Canada itself. What do Conservatives have to lose with this “tough love” approach, they ask? How about the country. Hmm… unless that’s the plan, maybe they got a hold of my tongue-in-cheek advice from December’s constitutional crisis and decided to take it seriously.

***

I’m so sick of this.

On the one side I have a bunch of pompous assholes who refuse to accept my sense of national identity as a legitimate expression of what it means to be Canadian. Who insist on imposing upon me and my fellow French-speakers a constitutional regime that won’t recognize the central role our nation plays in defining the soul of this country and that as such it requires constitutional tools to help it flourish.

And on the other side, I have these insecure rabid lunatics motivated by fear and hatred who insist on purging my culture and history of all things “canadian” because they think it’s the only way this construct they came up with in the sixties called the “Québec nation” can ever stand on its own and who consider me some sort of traitor for not being passionate about their dream of separating Quebec from Canada.

Each side blames the other for its troubles.

Pfff…

Well, I say: A pox on both your houses! I’m moving to Vermont. I hear it’s all about “hope” and “a spirit of cooperation” over there these days.

Check out also: Tell the National Post where to get off by Adam Radwanski


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4 commentaires sur “Please, oh please, Mr Harper, take the Post’s advice”


  1. M. Bergeron dit:

    You’d like Vermont. It’s nice and very green.


  2. Visionseeker dit:

    Un Canadien sensé à Ottawa veut bien te suivre.
    Lets stop the blame and get on with the game already.


  3. Vive le National Post libre! - Le Petit Émerillon dit:

    [...] Il couvre, en gros, plusieurs des mêmes idées que j’ai lancées dans ma réplique au même édito que j’adressais au canadiens-anglais dans leur langue [...]


  4. Aaah… Schatenfreude* - Le Petit Émerillon dit:

    [...] D’un côté les dangereux lunatiques à la Patrick Bourgeois et de l’autre, les bornés pompeux à la National [...]

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