Thursday, March 29, 2007

Towards a New Nationalism in Quebec

With their support to the Action Démocratique du Quebec (ADQ), certain Quebeckers are gradually (albeit very slowly) embracing a new kind of nationalism to most Montrealers’ greatest displeasure: a philosophy of Canadian/Quebecker melting pot.

Speaking of the ridings that were won by any given political parties, Montreal’s election map still looks like a chessboard shared by the Liberal Party of Quebec (LPQ) and the Parti Québécois (PQ). In this memorable provincial election, the major changes occurred when Mario Dumont’s ADQ, by seizing 41 ridings out of 125, truly gave birth to the Rest of Quebec (ROQ), in opposition to Montreal.

Boy, that election showed us how much Montreal is worryingly isolated from the ROQ!

Democracy certainly spoke on March 26. Political columnist Don MacPherson shamefully missed the target with his opinion piece published today in The Gazette. According to this hard-line ADQ basher, the day of the election “was a great day for xenophobia in Quebec.” MacPherson’s all-made and badly elaborated analysis shows a complete ignorance on the ROQ.

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Many people argued that the supporters of the ADQ are a bunch of xenophobic ethnic nationalists. Even though they’re not racist or xenophobic, most Francophones from all ideological horizons (including those who live in Montreal) are feeling quite uncomfortable with the idea of considering ethnic minorities as Quebeckers or Canadians. Yet, these same Francophones also contradict themselves by upholding that ethnic minorities must adapt themselves to Quebec’s mainstream culture and not the other way around.

Is asking the integration of ethnic minorities (just like the ADQ did it) a racist slur? That’s easily said, especially if you live in Montreal! While many Montrealers pride themselves for living in a “multicultural” and cosmopolitan city, people from the ROQ regard themselves as the thurifiers of Quebec’s mainstream culture.

There are certainly problems of ethnic nationalism in the ROQ (not all Francophones are fingered) just like in Montreal. However, most people from the ROQ are definitely not mad at ethnic minorities; they’re just frustrated – and with reason – of most immigrants’ despicable incapacity to adopt Quebec’s mainstream culture. No wonder why most supporters of the ADQ come from the ROQ.

Obviously, these calls for integration coming from what The Gazette's Anglophone political columnists pejoratively refer to as the "rural Quebec" certainly reveal the widening chasm between Montreal and the ROQ. If the trend continues, the "rural Quebec" will become even more inclusive towards immigrants than Montreal. No one can deny that the ROQ is slowly starting to embrace a philosophy of melting pot.

As a matter of fact, Quebeckers living outside Montreal (and me) don't recognize themselves in the kind of nationalism advocated by most Montrealers in the likes of André Boisclair, the current leader of the PQ, or humorist Réal Béland. In fact, many Montrealers believe in a "nationalism" constituted not by one strong dominant common culture, but rather by a string of cultures independent from each other.

In 2006, 85% of immigrants chose to live in Montreal. With the small number of immigrants that they welcome, the ROQ don't want to live the Montrealer experience, which means facing the prospect of having to deal with a society divided by ethnicity. While the West Island almost fully belongs to Anglophones, the centre of Montreal is marked by the strong presence of ethnic minorities and the East of the city is mostly Francophone.

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Most Quebeckers from the ROQ are certainly cuddling ethnic nationalism without being racist or xenophobic. After all, without wanting to condone such a mentality, this is certainly a step before these people living outside of Montreal collectively adopt with courage a philosophy of Quebecker/Canadian melting pot.

While most Montrealers adore ethnic division in the name of "celebration of cultural diversity", people from the rest of Quebec, who are mostly Francophones, care about social unity in Quebec. Francophones living outside of Montreal are gradually (albeit slowly) starting to embrace the vision of a society with a strong common culture for everybody, regardless of people's ethnicity.

With the contribution of the rest of Quebec, this province - if not Canada - is heading towards a new conception of nationalism. This election showed us that Montreal (I'm not insulting all Montrealers), just like Toronto and Vancouver, is intellectually and ideologically exhausted when it comes to finding a way to integrate immigrants.

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