My constant theme about Quebec is that it puts a kindler, gentler face on fascism. Fascism with a small “f”: everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state. Nationalism for the people, socialism for the people, and those who are not part of “the people” will have to dwell in the outer darkness of competitive capitalism and live without state subsidies. Those not part of the people include the “ethnics”, the Jews, and the English, as we are bluntly described in la belle province. This is a caricature, but it is uncomfortably close to the truth.
Pierre-Karl Péladeau made the mistake of speaking truth in public again.
Péladeau was speaking at the end of a debate at Université Laval in Quebec City on Wednesday evening when he summed up his belief that the march toward sovereignty should be conducted at double time.
“We won’t have 25 years ahead of us to achieve this. With demographics, with immigration, it’s clear that we’re losing one riding a year,” he told the crowd.
“We would like to have more control of it, but don’t be fooled. Who controls the immigrants who settle in Quebec? It’s the federal government. Of course we have shared powers, but they swear allegiance to the Queen.”
Mr. Péladeau, new arrivals are not made federalist because they swear allegiance to the Queen. What makes them anti-separatist is that, being obliged to go to French-language schools in Quebec, courtesy of Quebec’s Official Language Act, they encounter French Quebecers. Closer acquaintance with French Canadians inside Quebec exposes immigrant kids to the difficult-to-imagine levels of ethnocentricity, exclusion and hostility endemic to many levels of Quebec society. Immigrants learn that, no matter what, they are not part of nous-autres, us-guys, but remain eux-autres, those guys.
People keep saying it is changing, but Quebec’s attitudes were laid down by Louis XIV and will never change: uniformity in religion, conformity in society, and exclusion in economics. If I may quote myself from an earlier blog:
The attitudes are: there ought to be one kind of steeple in the town, teaching one orthodox doctrine. Diversity is weakness, argument is divisive, we must be unified and strong to deal with our enemies, who happen to be everyone who is not us.
I can sympathize with Quebecers’ natural desires to remain French-Canadian, and in control of their own province. This is the deal they got on Confederation in 1867 and it is natural for a people to want to continue to be. Nevertheless, they share a space with other ethnicities, tribes, and nations. Unlike the English-speaking liberal society which surrounds them on three sides, they seem to have little aptitude for forming allies. Make the effort to befriend us, my fellow French-speaking citizens, and you might find life less fraught with dangers.