Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Real Test for Mr. Charest

According to recent polls, 61% of Quebeckers are satisfied with Jean Charest (photo), Quebec's Premier. Moreover, 34% of people would vote for him. Many Quebeckers may be satisfied now, but this doesn't mean a lot.


Of course, since he's been going through his second mandate, Charest hasn't resorted to cabinet shuffles. Whether we like him or not, let's admit that most members of his cabinet are more competent. As columnist Alain Dubuc also wrote it, the Liberal Party of Quebec (LPQ) seems closer to people's interests.

Indeed, some ministers like Julie Boulet (Transportation) or Michelle Courchesne (Education) were great. While Boulet toughened the Quebec's Code of Security on the Road (Code de la sécurité routière), Courchesne, on the other hand, did a good job by bringing back the obligation to send report cards (marked with numbers) or to penalize a student for doing a mistake while writing in French.

Another explanation for this surge of popularity is the relative absence of criticism from the opposition parties. Anyway, we don't see how could the Parti Québécois (PQ) or the Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) criticize some bills that they would have liked to present.

Think about it: as a party that tries to stand up for the "survival" of the French language in Quebec, the PQ would have certainly liked to have the idea to bring back the old fashioned way of teaching French, that is taking marks out for any spelling or grammar mistakes. In a global nutshell, it looks like the opposition parties don't have a bone to throw at their supporters or Quebeckers in general!

Despite the good performance of Charest's government, Quebec's Premier will probably blunder sooner or later. Our Premier certainly excelled in many issues. Nonetheless, he never really was brilliant in an issue that divides Quebec the same way racial co-existence divides the USA: religious and ethnic co-existence.

After the publication of the Bouchard-Taylor commission, this will be the moment when Jean Charest will face the toughest issue of all. Don't forget that unlike last year, Charest can't allow himself to dump for a second time the debate on religious and ethnic issues.

Since Quebeckers are preoccupied by the questions of ethnic and religious co-existence, they'll get to see if Jean Charest can take a split-second decision or act like a chicken in public (that's what he did when he created the Bouchard-Taylor Commission). All in all, Charest might be good in many portfolios, but Quebeckers will have their final word on their Premier after they see him trying to handle one in which he'll never be good, anyway.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Signing a Death Warrant

Certain people, starting with some Western countries, will applause the Canadian government for recognizing Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia. However, to use an image, our government's decision might be a double-edged knife.

Of course, some pro-recognition arguments are not so bad. In the name of the concept of self-determination, some will say that Kosovars were victims of the Serbian occupation (albeit not from A to Z) and that they were seriously deprived from some civil rights. Moreover, others will say that dismantling the former Yugoslavia will help to solve the problems related to attempt of ethnic cleansing.

But what if Canada's decision to recognize Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence is bad? The point here is not to talk about the Serbian government's attempt to give more "autonomy" to Kosovo given the fact that this province is the birthplace of the Serbian nation.

In the first place, we can talk about the relative absence of economic foundations in the new "state". Speaking about the economic situation in Kosovo, a 2005 report from the Council of Europe mentioned that:

[...] a disastrous economic situation with unemployment affecting more than half of the population, widespread poverty and lack of basic social welfare has obvious potentially destabilizing effects. Unemployment is high and growing (60 to 70%). In the under-30 age group, 50% of the population in Kosovo is unemployed. Average income is in the region of 200 euros and the average age is about 22 years. The prospects for economic development are limited. There is little domestic investment and foreign investment is virtually nonexistent. The process of privatisation of property has been ruptured on several occasions. There is evident discontent with the socio-economic situation, which affects all communities living in Kosovo.

Moreover, we can also point out the relative absence of state authority in Kosovo. Thus, let's not be surprised if we see some instability in Kosovo in the upcoming months. As a matter of fact, the Kosovar government will have difficulty to pay attention to the 300 thousand illegal weapons present on its territory. Add to that the obvious problems of human and drug trafficking.

If we put aside the stats that we looked at, we may bear in mind that the Canadian government (just like any other Western countries) just signed a death warrant to the ethnic minorities of Kosovo (the Serbians in the first place).

Anyway, if the Kosovar government wants to be seen before the international community as a democratic state that protects and respects its ethnic minorities, we can't be sure that stability will prevail. Given the fact that tribalism is still in the mind of many people in the Balkans, the Canadian government shouldn't be surprised to see some tensions between people of Albanian and Serbian heritage in Kosovo.

Hence the obvious question: should Canada recognize a newly created country that is 1) part of Europe and 2) built on tribalism? Far from me the idea to say that the right to self-determination is rubbish. All that needs to be said is that Kosovo should be recognized if it 1) can rely on a viable economy; 2) succeeds to meet European standards in democracy, which means protecting the Serbian community against any persecution (which is currently not the case); and 3) has stable institutions (national army, police squads, etc.).

Unfortunately, no glimmer of hope can be seen for Kosovo. Therefore, my answer for Kosovo is no.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Some Immigrants Will Never Say These, Right?

With all the things we've heard about racism in Canada recently, no one ever dared to take a serious look at ethnic minorities themselves. Indeed, I recall reading a newspaper article saying that one French-Quebecker out of six (who testified at the Bouchard-Taylor Commission's hearings) were filled with hatred toward religious and ethnic minorities. Moreover, the article itself said that people from ethnic and religious minorities had an examplary behaviour.

Seriously, I really don't understand why white people are just so complacent with ethnic minorities, particularly with "visible" minorities. That blind complacency makes them believe that racism, in Canada, may only come from some white people, but never from ethnic minorities themselves. Speaking about that, my blogging colleague Philippe Giguère (from Shawinigan) even wrote to me once that there is an "emerging" racism from some ethnic minorities towards the majority.

From my personal life, here are a set of things that I've heard from various members of my family. So I'm sorry, Philippe, to tell you that I don't believe that racism from ethnic minorities is "emerging". To other readers, get ready, because these things will inevitably disgust you. This is one of the rare moment when I share with you a few things about my personal life.

***

Uncle T.: "I don't understand why most white people in the USA consider blacks as being true Americans."

***

Uncle B.: "I'm glad that my son went to Vietnam to marry a Vietnamese woman. Had he married a white one, I don't see how my son would have managed to live with someone who is fundamentally and racially unfit to live in a couple. [...] Again, I'm not a racist and you all know that Vietnamese people are better than white people when it comes to raising a family."

***

Uncle B.: "I'm not a racist! If I lived in the USA, I would have voted for Barrack Obama!"

***

Cousin N.: "It is not racist to say that Canada and Quebec don't have a culture of their own."

***

My mom who is yelling at my sister: "I don't want to see you hanging out with blacks, because all blacks are criminals!"

***

Dad: "Haitian immigrants are just a breed of criminals."

***

Dad: "South Africa is the wealthiest country of Africa because of its diamonds and its white population. Period."

***

Cousin S: "[If you compare a person of Asian heritage and Wayne Gretzky], it's normal to identify Gretzky as a Canadian, because he's white. Thus, a person of Asian heritage is not a Canadian [even if he has the Canadian citizenship]."

***

Sister: "There's nothing wrong with ethnic nationalism, because we're not in Third-World or Eastern countries; we're in Canada."

***

Sister: "The French soccer team (at the World Cup) is not representative of France. I mean look at it, most of the players are blacks and the captain is an Algerian."

***

Uncle Q: "People with mixed heritage living in Vietnam (i.e. those who were born from a French, a North African or American father) are not real Vietnamese!"

***

Dad: "The melting-pot is just a stupid idea."

***

Mom: "Don't marry a white or black person, because when we celebrate Christmas or other festivities, that person's incapacity to speak Vietnamese will make her/him unable to fit in the family. In the end, make sure that you marry someone of Vietnamese heritage and you'll not likely face the possibility to endure a divorce. [...] Obviously, your uncle's divorce (with a woman of Vietnamese heritage) is just an exception."

***

Mom: "I will not recognize your children as being my descendants if you give life to them with a white or black person. I mean, they're not 100% Vietnamese, so I'm not going to consider myself as their grandmother."

***

Dad: "Mixed marriages only create a life disorder, because your children will not be able to determine their identity."

***

Cousin P. "giving" an "advice" to my sister: "By the time you get your own pharmacy, don't hire any white person."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Quebec Is Not Kosovo

After Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence, some Quebecker separatists ludicrously likened Quebec to Kosovo. Seriously, some Quebecker separatists definitely need a reality check as Eddie Goldenberg wrote it in the Globe and Mail.

If Goldenberg talked about the fact that Kosovo was under the ad interim control of the United Nations (UN), then let's deal with how Quebecker actually lives within Canada.

In comparisons with people from Kosovo, most Quebeckers don't even realize that they live in a paradise that Canada is. The goal of this post is not to say that federalism is the only viable option for Quebec, but rather to stress on the fact that some Quebecker separatists are just so good in the art of demagoguery.

As a matter of fact, unlike Kosovars who were occupied (by force) and terribly humiliated by Serbia, Quebec made the choice to be part of Canada back in 1867. Moreover, in more than one hundred years of history, English Canadians never took away the right of French Quebeckers to be part of this country's economical life in spite of most French Quebeckers' poverty before the 1960s and also the fact that Quebec's economy was mostly controlled by English Quebeckers.

Obviously, after the English conquest of 1763, English merchants who came to Montreal needed the help of the "Canadian" merchants in the fur business. Moreover, even after the English conquest, some "Canadian" merchants became rich. In other words, Quebeckers' situation is not even comparable to that of Albanians living in Kosovo. During the Serbian occupation of Kosovo, it was the Serbians who controlled the regional economy of Kosovo, mind you.

In political life, Quebeckers weren't even kicked out of it by English Canadians, as far as we know. Indeed, are all civil servants (working for the federal or provincial government in Quebec) of Anglo-Saxon heritage? Definitely not. French-speaking civil servants weren't kicked out of political institutions the same way the Serbians did it to Kosovars! Add to this the fact that since 1791, French-speaking people have always had the right to occupy a seat in our legislatures. Therefore, French Quebeckers have always had the right to influence the course of their future within Canada.

In the end, it's hard to see how the situation of French Quebeckers, throughout Canada's history, is comparable to the Kosovars'. After all, throughout Canada's history, French Quebeckers never suffered from ethnic segregation like blacks along with people of Asian and Aboriginal heritage. Moreover, French Quebeckers have been benefiting from all civil rights even before the 1960s despite the fact that Canada's political institutions weren't bilingual as they are nowadays.

After all, if English Canada really did persecute French Quebeckers, than let's wonder why we don't see any tanks from the NATO down in the streets.

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