Dr. Dawg

Not such a belle province for les autres

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The ugly undercurrent of pure laine chauvinism, a chronic political infection, has erupted once again in Quebec. And the folks most concerned about les autres—anglophones, hijab-wearing immigrants, Jews and so on—are the ones most likely to win.

When it was founded in 1968, the Parti Québécois stood for broad social-democratic principles and humane values, and when it came to power eight years later under René Lévesque, it built an enviably progressive social infrastructure. But his successors, a dreary parade of lesser and lesser lights, undid much of that, and their politics steadily devolved into a crassly cynical opportunism.

In their efforts to woo the rancid mass of hérouxvilliste yokels, all three major parties are in the pandering game. The Liberals set up a tiny handful of niqabi women to be a new scapegoat, passing legislation to address a non-problem. And Liberal leader Jean Charest publicly supported the expulsion of soccer players who dared wear a headscarf on the field.

The Coalition Avenir Québec, which stands at this point for everything and nothing, absorbed the moribund Action démocratique du Québec, a far-right formation that played to the basest elements of the Quebec electorate. The CAQ’s failure to inoculate itself with principles will inevitably permit those poisons to persist and spread.

But at this point, no one is working harder to gather up the pitchfork-wielders in Hérouxville and the boobs in Chaudière-Appalaches than PQ leader Pauline Marois. Over the past few days, she has alternated between dogwhistles and foghorns. A sly signal to the vieille souche—referring to those whose mother-tongue is French (as opposed to the Quebeckers old and new who merely speak it)—was succeeded by an acrobatic appeal to exclusionary ethnic prejudice.

Those allophones and anglophones are once again, it seems, in danger of swamping Quebec’s substantial French majority. Not only will language laws have to be toughened, but the signs and symbols of les autres will have to go as well.

Under the guise of secularism, Marois will re-establish the primacy of Christianity in Quebec. Her proposed Charter of Secularism will prevent public employees from wearing religious symbols:

On Tuesday, PQ leader Pauline Marois travelled to Trois-Rivières to announce her party’s plan for a Charter of Secularism that would, among other things, prohibit public-sector employees from wearing “conspicuous religious signs.”

She did not spell out exactly which conspicuous signs would be forbidden, but in the past the party has identified the Muslim headscarf, or hijab, the Jewish skullcap, or yarmulke and the Sikh ceremonial dagger, or kirpan, as problematic. The ban would apply to everyone from schoolteachers to liquor-store clerks.

Christmas trees in government offices will, however, be spared her righteous wrath—and so will crucifixes, including the huge crucifix behind the Speaker’s chair in the National Assembly, placed there under the reign of Maurice Duplessis.

“There is no question of touching certain traditions that make up part of our heritage, such as the Christmas tree,” Ms. Marois said. Twice in the space of a one-page statement she repeated the sentence: “We do not have to apologize for being who we are.” To emphasize her point, she held her news conference at a historic sawmill that was run by a Catholic religious brotherhood.

…Ms. Marois said [the crucifix in the National Assembly] is there to stay.

Enforced secularism except for Christianity: a droll concept, to be sure. But Marois argues that Christianity is not a religion like the others, it’s a heritage thing. La Grande Noirceur descends once again—and in this campaign, there’s no sign of dawn.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on August 15, 2012 5:15 PM.

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