Quebec politicians now seek to separate ‘us’ from ‘them’

Quebec Premier Francois Legault may be on his way to a triumphant re-election, a victory based not on his charisma or his audacious plans for the province’s future, but on division, exclusion and the “otherness” of a significant part of the provincial population.

He will likely deal crippling blows to two parties that have long dominated provincial politics — the Liberal Party of Quebec and the Parti Québécois — the latter of which may be reduced to a single seat. This is hardly a cause for celebration.

Call it the new politics of soft nationalism in Quebec: rather than separating from Canada, Quebec politicians now seek to separate ‘us’ from ‘them’ and make the election for ‘we “, and not “you others.”

The “others” in this case are the cultural minorities of the province, notably immigrants or first-generation Quebecers. The province’s political psyche is held hostage by the widespread, though unsubstantiated, belief that this population speaks too much English and refuses to integrate into mainstream Quebec society and culture. Legault has built his entire political career exploiting this mistaken belief.

Even if this were true, it would still have no effect on the demographics of the province, where native French speakers of European descent make up about 85% of the provincial population and where 95% of the population speaks French.

Regardless of these facts, the duck of linguistic degradation caused by minorities has repeated itself so often that it has taken a turn of its own and Montreal has become something of a shortcut in the language of Quebec politics for people and values. staggered. with mainstream Quebec.

Legault’s campaign often comes across as being more anti-Montreal than pro-Quebec, a remarkable thing given that he succeeds by being openly antagonistic towards the economic engine of the province and where a quarter of Quebec’s population lives. In a recent interview, he twice warned Montrealers to mind their own business when it comes to his party’s policies toward other parts of the province, as if Montrealers weren’t full participants. and equal to the governance of the province.

Legault’s overt hostility to Montreal — and what the city stands for — comes across in a variety of ways, ranging from mean-spirited to ignorant to racist. Over the past week, Legault has derided electoral reform as something only for intellectuals (like Justin Trudeau, Legault was in favor of electoral reform before he was elected; Montreal is represented only by about 20% of the seats in the National Assembly despite representing a quarter of the provincial population) and ordered the removal of the English translation of her party’s platform from its website.

Most egregiously, when asked why he would refuse to accept more than 50,000 new immigrants, Legault said the quiet part out loud, declaring, “Quebecers are peaceful. They don’t like quarrels. They don’t like extremists. They don’t like violence. So we have to make sure that we keep it as it is.

Legault conveniently omitted that recent problems with extremism and violence in the province have been uniformly directed against visible minorities in Quebec, not caused by them.

Although the Prime Minister subsequently offered a half-hearted apology, this was nevertheless in line with both the policies adopted by his government and a general change in tone in Quebec political discourse in recent years, which sometimes seems imported from the United States.

A recent Parti Québécois advertisement even mentions Muslim hordes on the southern border of the province. In another case, an advertisement depicts the English language spreading through Quebec like a virus emanating from Montreal.

Quebec’s popular anti-immigrant sentiment is particular because the province needs to increase immigration just to maintain its number of seats in Parliament, and all major parties want greater control over federal government immigration policy.

Despite this, Legault’s policies barely suggest that Quebec is a welcoming place. Bill 21 prohibits people from wearing religious symbols if employed in provincial public sector, while Bill 96 extends restriction on English education for non-English speakers to provincial community college system . Both of these laws have been widely condemned for their inherent bias against the province’s minorities. The consequences of these laws will be felt first and foremost in Montreal.

Although the Liberal Party of Quebec could have taken advantage of this election to present itself as a clear alternative to Legault and his divisive policies, leader Dominique Anglade seems to align herself with the false premise of Legault’s policy, going as far as to criticize his own candidates. for speaking out against Bills 21 and 96 (neither of which are popular in Montreal).

Thus, the traditional support base of the Liberal Party of Quebec, made up of Quebec federalists, Anglophones, cultural minorities and Montrealers, is eaten away by competitors from no less than six other parties.

Although the outcome of the election may already be a foregone conclusion, there remains a population of several million Canadians living in Quebec who will soon find themselves essentially excluded from provincial politics. They will be represented although without particular political value and subject to punitive laws enacted by paranoid populists. Who will fight for them?

Taylor C. Noakes is a freelance journalist and public historian.

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