Friday, June 23, 2017

Canada’s 150th: A Québécois View

Each sovereign state can choose the date of its national holiday. Generally, this date recalls the accession to independence. The United States, for example, chose to emphasize each year their unilateral declaration of independence of July 4, 1776. They preferred this date to the date of the Treaty of Paris, 1783, which ended the revolutionary war they had won thanks to France’s decisive support. Their national holiday commemorates a founding act.

In France, where the origin of independence is lost in the mists of time, they remember the 14th of July, the fall of the Bastille, as the passage from monarchy to the Republic, the founding act of modern France. Unlike some other countries, the United Kingdom celebrates the birth of its sovereign as its national holiday; it is celebrated on the second Saturday in June. In Canada, they celebrate “the Queen’s birthday” in late May. In Quebec, the Parti Québécois government of Bernard Landry transformed the Queen’s birthday into its opposite, the Patriots’ Day, after the Patriotes who sought to establish the independence of Lower Canada, Quebec’s ancestor.

So Canada celebrates two national holidays: the United Kingdom’s and the one called Canada Day, referring to “Confederation,” (which was a confederation in name only), on July 1. Neither has any relation to its independence. Canada does not celebrate the date of its accession to independence, which legally occurred on December 11, 1931 through the adoption of a British law called the Statute of Westminster. Why?

Birth of Canada?

There is more than one reason for this. First, the date when Canada achieved independence is in reality uncertain. In its Patriation Reference in 1981, the Supreme Court was unable to situate it precisely, which in itself is an anomaly. At most it indicated that it had occurred in events between 1919 and 1931. This effective sovereignty was allegedly won on the battlefields of the First World War, in particular at the battle of Vimy Ridge – one of uncertain military importance but of great importance in the construction of Canadian identity, and for which its 100th anniversary has just been celebrated. This victory led to the separate signature to the Treaty of Versailles of His Majesty King George V on behalf of Canada, which conferred on Canada an international juridical personality, one of the fundamental attributes of sovereignty.

It should be noted that during the centennial ceremonies at Vimy on April 9 the Canadian prime minister stated: “It is here where Canada was born.” This statement teaches us two things. First, and this is an irony of history, Canada was born in France. Second, Canada did not exist in 1867. It was born, according to Mr. Trudeau, exactly a half-century later.

Indeed, it should be recalled that British troops were still occupying the Quebec Citadel in 1867. The Canadian armed forces did not yet exist. Canada had no international relations other than relations within the British Empire. There was no Canadian ambassador abroad, and Canada could sign no treaty because its international relations, including with the United States, were conducted in London. Canadian citizenship did not appear until 1947.

The only provision in the British North America Act, 1867 that had anything to do with international affairs was section 132, which granted the Parliament and Government of Canada “all Powers necessary or proper for performing the Obligations of Canada or of any Province thereof, as Part of the British Empire, towards Foreign Countries, arising under Treaties between the Empire and such Foreign Countries.” Moreover, the same Act provided that all federal laws could be disallowed [overruled] by London. The 1867 Act failed to respect the principle of effectiveness of core state functions, a necessary condition of independence.

Why 150 Years?

Why, then, do they want to celebrate 150 years of colonial autonomy? It can only be because in 1867 they thought they had found the final solution to an event that had occurred thirty years earlier and had been a political earthquake. This was, of course, the rebellion of the Patriotes of Lower Canada. A parallel revolt occurred in Upper Canada, but it concerned only the distribution of powers among Anglophones, namely the British governor and the local élite. That was remedied by the advent of responsible government which turned power over to the elected representatives of the population. In Lower Canada, in contrast, responsible government aggravated the fundamental problem which was the co-existence of two nations – the more vigorous one, demographically, being the French-Canadian nation.

The Act of Union in 1840, which merged Upper and Lower Canada, had been designed to dilute the power of the Francophone majority of Lower Canada at a time when responsible government was becoming inevitable. However, the Act of Union was a failure since the political and national realities were obvious: in effect, there were two co-premiers and two attorneys general in United Canada; two parliamentary majorities were required if laws were to be adopted. The fait francophone continued to weigh heavily in the functioning of the Union, too heavily in the eyes of certain Anglophone politicians.

The solution was colonial federalism, that is, Quebec’s imprisonment in a federal framework in which it was to become increasingly a minority. This imprisonment, which was an attempt at more definitive appropriation and neutralization of Québécois identity, is the precondition to the existence of Canada. This existential condition found its logical follow-up in the negation of the Quebec nation in the constitutional renewal of 1982. Canada was built on the weakening of Quebec. On July 1st each year the Canadian nation celebrates its domination over the Quebec nation. The choice of a founding act that is to be collectively celebrated is never innocent and is always revealing.

By André Binette, a prominent constitutional lawyer in Quebec.

This article originally appeared in L’Aut’journal, translated in English by Canadian Dimension.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bill 99: To be or not to be a nation

In 1998, the Government of Canada put three questions on Quebec's right to unilateral secession to the Supreme Court of Canada, one of which referred to the right of peoples to self-determination. The questions read as follows:

Question 1: Under the Constitution of Canada, can the National Assembly, legislature or government of Quebec effect the secession of Quebec from Canada unilaterally?

Question 2: Does international law give the National Assembly, legislature or government of Quebec the right to effect the secession of Quebec from Canada unilaterally? In this regard, is there a right to self-determination under international law that would give the National Assembly, legislature or government of Quebec the right to effect the secession of Quebec from Canada unilaterally?

Question 3: In the event of a conflict between domestic and international law on the right of the National Assembly, legislature or government of Quebec to effect the secession of Quebec from Canada unilaterally, which would take precedence in Canada?

These questions were severely criticized by the former head of the International Law Commission of the United Nations in a legal opinion. The renowned international French scholar Alain Pellet stated:

I am profoundly distressed and upset by the partisan manner in which the questions are put and I take the liberty of suggesting that a court of justice has the duty to react to what appears to be a blatant attempt at political manipulation.

Yet, contrary to all expectations and as constitutional experts have pointed out, the Court refused, in its August 28th 1998 Reference re Secession of Quebec to answer YES or NO to the questions put to it. And, rather than simply denying Quebec's right to declare independence unilaterally and state that international law on the self-determination of peoples did not recognize the right to unilateral secession, it noted that the federal and provincial governments had a constitutional and mandatory duty to negotiate should Quebec vote in favor of sovereignty. It also considered the question of the international community's recognition of Quebec's sovereignty, linking the two questions. It said:

The corollary of a legitimate attempt by one participant in Confederation to seek an amendment to the Constitution is an obligation on all parties to come to the negotiating table. The clear repudiation by the people of Quebec of the existing constitutional order would confer legitimacy on demands for secession, and place an obligation on the other provinces and the federal government to acknowledge and respect that expression of democratic will by entering into negotiations and conducting them in accordance with the underlying constitutional principles already discussed.

The advisory opinion of the Supreme Court hurt the federalists especially because it recognized that Quebec could turn to the international community if Canadian governments failed in their obligation to negotiate in good faith.

In order to circumvent the obligation to negotiate set out in the advisory opinion by the Supreme Court of Canada, the Parliament of Canada tabled on December 10th, 1999 an Act to Give Effect to the Requirement for Clarity as Set Out in the Opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference (Bill C-20). This federal initiative led to the passing of the Clarity Act on June 29, 2000 which purports to impose conditions on Quebec before the federal government fulfills its obligation to negotiate with Quebec.

The intent of the Clarity Act is to give the House of Commons the power to decide that a majority of 50% + 1 of valid votes cast is not enough to oblige the federal government to assume its constitutional and mandatory duty to negotiate. It also give the federal government the possibility to shirk its constitutional obligation to negotiate if it feels that the question asked was not "clear enough" It's a masterpiece of legal sophistry, open to almost any interpretation.

Fundamental Rights

In reaction to such a serious threat to the freedom of the people of Quebec to determine their future, the Government of Quebec tabled, on December 15, 1999, a bill entitled An Act respecting the fundamental rights and prerogatives of the Quebec people and of the Quebec State (Bill 99). With this bill, the government called on the National Assembly of Quebec to reaffirm Quebec's freedom to determine its own future.

The first chapter of the Fundamental Rights Act affirms, as no other Quebec legislation had ever done before, the concept of a Quebec people. It stats certain rights that belong to the Quebec people: the right of self-determination, the right to freely decide the political regime and legal status of Quebec, the right to determine alone the mode of exercise of its right to choose the political regime and legal status of Quebec.

In 2001, Keith Henderson of the Equality Party filed a motion in the Superior Court to strike down six sections of Bill 99. He alleges that Quebec, by passing these provisions, exceeded its powers and that Bill 99 caused Mr Henderson personal injury as a Canadian citizen. He argues that Bill 99 sets the stage for a possible unilateral declaration of independence, in violation of the Canadian Constitution.

For more than ten years the progress of this motion was hampered by judgments on inadmissibility in the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal. But these judgments were finally settled, so in May 2013 the Government of Quebec presented its defense.

In the fall of 2013, it was the turn of the Government of Canada to intervene in this dispute by presenting a position similar to Henderson's and arguing that Bill 99 must be invalidated. On October 23, 2013, the National Assembly adopted a unanimous motion denouncing the federal government's intervention in this matter, and reiterated its support for Bill 99. After some more delays, a Quebec court has finally begun hearings in this case.

What is being put on trial is the very notion of a distinct Quebec nation. Canada's position is clear. It wants to reduce the French-speaking nation to a simple ethnic minority, one among many in a multicultural Canada. There is no such thing as a Quebec people according to the Canadian Constitution. Keith Henderson wants assurances that our self-proclaimed right to self-determination will be crushed and that his "right" to be Canadian in Quebec will always prevail.

However, if Mr Henderson can't have our right to self-determination suppressed, and Quebecers choose independence, then he is in favor of granting this right to every neighborhood and street corner as he is a strong proponent of the partitioning of an independent Quebec. This partitioning, of course, would be done unilaterally. I'm sure Mr Henderson dreams of his own version of the Republic of Serbian Krajina somewhere out in the West Island.


We are often told that support for Quebec independence is low these days, and it is then inferred that this means a majority of Quebecers are content with being a part of Canada. However, a majority of Quebecers also believe that Quebec is a distinct nation with a right to self-determination. Canada has made it quite clear that it rejects this idea and it has gone to great length to undermine it.

One day, I believe the cognitive dissonance that many Quebecers live with will prove too great and something will snap. In the end, we will either have to affirm ourselves and declare that we are a sovereign nation, equal to all the other nations of the world, or we will have accept being nothing more than an ethnic group in Canada, and accept the slow assimilation that comes with this reality. The in-between position that many Quebec federalists try to hold is simply untenable.

Based on a speech by Daniel Turp from February 2, 2001 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Corruption, racism and a railway: The making of Canada

John A. Macdonald dreamed of an Aryan Canada

Confederation: A political coup by crony-capitalists and power-hungry politicians

Not many merchants, lumbermen, manufacturers or bankers were particularly enthusiastic about the creation of the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. The plan to make a new nation out of squabbling, debt-ridden colonies injected new instability into British North America’s economic climate. Confederation would probably bring more government, more debt, more taxes, more friction with the United States and more wildly visionary schemes by impractical politicians. Why upset the business status quo?

But suppose you were a failing businessman, longing to be bailed out. Suppose the only choice for your enterprise was to go big or go broke. Suppose your best hopes lay in wild visionary schemes for expansion.

The Grand Trunk Railway of Canada was by far the biggest enterprise in all of British North America. By 1861, its main lines ran about 1,800 kilometres from Sarnia in Canada West to Quebec City and Portland, Maine, in the east. It claimed to be the greatest railway in the world, and the greatest foreign project ever financed from Britain. The investors who had poured almost $5 billion in today’s purchasing power into building the Grand Trunk had vitalized the colonial economy as they anticipated fabulous returns. In their first golden age, railways were expected to be everybody’s gravy train.

The reality was very different. The Grand Trunk’s promoters, like most early railway entrepreneurs, had grossly underestimated their costs of construction and overestimated the traffic their line would generate. They had trouble competing with waterways and trouble with the harsh Canadian climate, and had foolishly built their line to a gauge that would not allow for connections with U.S. railways. In an ethically challenged business climate, insider trading, bribery and political chicanery drained off money and credibility.

A committee of the Grand Trunk’s debt holders described it in 1861 as “an undertaking which is overwhelmed with debt, wholly destitute of credit and in imminent danger of lapsing into utter insolvency and confusion.

There seemed to be two routes to salvation: Build more track and get more government help. Early in the 1860s, the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada began lobbying for railway expansion eastward to the Maritime colonies, railway expansion westward through “Indian” and fur-trader country to the Pacific, and all the help of any kind it could get from the government of the Province of Canada.

These hopes coincided almost exactly with the grandiose vision of the coalition of Canadian politicians led by John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier (a solicitor for the Grand Trunk) and George Brown, who wanted to create a new country by uniting with the Maritime provinces, annexing the Hudson’s Bay Company lands in the west and tying it all together with an intercolonial railway running to Halifax and a transcontinental line to British Columbia.

The Grand Trunk did everything it could to promote Confederation. We don’t know what “everything” involved because so much power and cash circulated in backrooms and under tables in those days. It is known that in 1866 the general manager of the Grand Trunk, C.J. Brydges, was the conduit for supplying what John A. Macdonald called “the needful” (cash worth more than $2 million today) to help overthrow an anti-Confederate government in New Brunswick in 1866. We can assume that pro-Confederate politicians got free rides on the Grand Trunk, while their opponents had to pay their way. And the possibility of serious opposition to Canadian expansion by the Hudson’s Bay Company was neutralized when key Grand Trunk shareholders purchased control of the historic enterprise in 1863.

Except in New Brunswick, the Confederation plan was never put to a popular vote. It might have had trouble passing. Its opponents loudly proclaimed the whole idea to be nothing more than a great Grand Trunk railway “job” – a swindle mainly for the benefit of its shareholders and their political henchmen. The muddy waters of Confederation’s paternity were not clarified by the claim of Edward Watkin, Britain’s leading spokesman for the Grand Trunk, that he was the true Father of Confederation.

Regardless of who Canada's real daddy is, one thing is certain, Confederation had nothing to do with "independence" as the British colonies of North America didn't acquire any new powers at the expense of the British Empire. In fact, they actually found themselves with less freedom following 1867 as many powers designated under provincial jurisdiction were reassigned to the newly created federal government. This new government had unlimited authority over provincial jurisdiction, all matters not explicitly outlined in the Constitution and all forms of taxation and regulation. No, Confederation was not about any kind of "national" independence, it was essentially a coup performed by British crony-capitalists and power-hungry politicians.

Ethnic cleansing

Sir John A. Macdonald deliberately starved thousands of aboriginal people to clear a path for the Canadian Pacific Railroad and open the prairies to white settlement. His “National Dream” cost them their health, their independence and – in many cases – their lives.

In March of 1882, John A. Macdonald said in the House of Commons that the Indigenous people south of the proposed railway tracks in the territory of Assiniboine or south-western Saskatchewan would be removed by force if necessary. What he wanted to do was eliminate any threat to the construction of the railway. So when the Europeans showed up over the next couple of decades, the land was literally cleared of people. 

Despite guarantees of food aid in times of famine in Treaty No. 6, Canadian officials used food, or rather denied food, as a means to ethnically cleanse a vast region from Regina to the Alberta border as the Canadian Pacific Railway took shape. Acting as both prime minister and minister of Indian affairs during the darkest days of the famine, Macdonald even boasted that the indigenous population was kept on the “verge of actual starvation.” 

For years, government officials withheld food from aboriginal people until they moved to their appointed reserves, forcing them to trade freedom for rations. Once on reserves, food placed in ration houses was withheld for so long that much of it rotted while the people it was intended to feed fell into a decades-long cycle of malnutrition, suppressed immunity and sickness from tuberculosis and other diseases. Thousands died.

Asian exclusion

From 1880, thousands of Chinese workers were imported to build Canada's national railway and were paid starvation wages for performing the most dangerous tasks. Right after the last spike was driven, the Canadian government thanked them by imposing a unique and racist law, the head tax of 1885, which forced all Chinese immigrants to pay a $50 tax. This was increased to $100 in 1900 and $500 in 1903. Between 1885 and 1923, the Canadian government collected an estimated $23 million from 81,000 Chinese immigrants. (This would be worth $1 billion today.)

The head tax imposed a crushing burden on the impoverished new immigrants. At the time, $500 was the equivalent of two years' wages. Many paid off the unwieldy debts incurred by the tax through long, painful years of hard labour. At the same time, the Canadian government was paying many European immigrants to settle on land that had been seized from Aboriginal peoples. The Chinese were the only immigrants ever forced to pay a head tax.

In 1885, the Electoral Franchise Act explicitly denied Chinese Canadians the right to vote; but, in 1898, new legislation extended the franchise to Asian voters. This lasted until 1920 when the Dominion Elections Act said that if a province discriminated against a group by reason of race, that group would also be excluded from the federal franchise, meaning that British Columbia residents of Chinese, Japanese and South Asian background lost their right to vote in national elections. Saskatchewan also disenfranchised the Chinese. 

The suppression of French

In the aftermath of Confederation, francophones from several English-speaking provinces watched helplessly as their rights were systematically eroded. Throughout Canada, French-Catholic minorities were attacked one after the other in an attempt to make them conform to the White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant mold. 

In Manitoba and the North West francophone rights were curtailed. The anglophones of these provinces took advantage of their majority in the legislature to declare war on what they called the French-Canadian “threat” in an attempt to “Keep Canada British!

In 1890 Manitoba's Official Language Act banned French, formerly an official language in the province. It diminished the rights of French school and abolished the use of French in the Parliament and in the Courts of the province. In 1916, the Thornton Act abolished bilingual schools and completely ended the teaching of French in the province in spite of these rights being explicitly guaranteed in the federal Manitoba Act.

In 1905, the Alberta School Act imposed English as the only language of instruction and in 1909, Saskatchewan follows suit with its own School Act which made English the only language of instruction but allowed limited use of French in primary classes. In 1929, a different Saskatchewan law completely abolished French in public education. 

It's no coincidence that in the early 20th century, the Ku Klux Klan was one of the largest organizations in Saskatchewan, with only the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool accounting for more members. Although the Klan itself was an American import, the Saskatchewan branch must to be situated in this decades long battle against Catholic and francophone rights. The Saskatchewan KKK's driving motivation was not specifically against Blacks, as in the US, but it was rather about preserving a narrow, religious and ethnic based notion of Britishness in Canada. And this goal fit very well with official government policy at the time.


Canadians like to portray the Fathers of Confederation as god-like men and exalt Confederation to biblical proportions. According to the usual narrative, Confederation was all about putting aside differences and working together to build something great. This story is almost always a complete whitewash of history. The ugly side of that story is rarely told. 

The reason is that Canadians have a pathological need to see themselves as the good guys of the universe, a need that stems from a deep seated insecurity. Canada is basically a relic of empire, which means it has no inherent legitimacy. The good guy fantasy provides a means of dealing with that unpleasant reality. It also provides a means of feeling superior to both Quebecers and Americans.

People can live in whatever fantasyland they like. I don't know what Mexicans tell themselves about their origins. It may be factual or it may not. It's not really something that concerns me. However, what Canadians tell themselves does concern me as it often leads to hypocritical fingers being pointed at me, like when some jackass from British Columbia, the Canadian jurisdiction that has passed the most racist laws by far, accuses me and all Quebecers of being horrible racists. That type of ignorance and hypocrisy is a byproduct of Canadian myth-making.

This is what compels me to tear down the fantasy. People should see Canada for what it really is. English-Canadians just reinvented themselves in the 1960s as this kind, forward-looking, progressive country without ever really coming to terms with their dark past. They seemed more fixated on America's past and flattered themselves that they were somehow better. It's the fantasy of a caring, sharing Canada whose beloved Mounties settled the west without America's violence and lawlessness, a nation that joins international peacekeeping missions to bring peace to a benighted world. It's a Canada sanitized of its real history.

So, the same patterns of dominance remain but with new and more acceptable window dressing. The same assimilationist attitudes persist but they're now coated with a veneer of "multiculturalism." The same feelings of superiority persists but they are no long presented as racial or cultural superiority, they're now about Canadian moral superiority over "racist" Quebec. Independence for Quebec will not only liberate Quebec, but it will also free Canadians from the mental straitjacket needed to keep their empire together. It will not only lead to a better, freer, and more just Quebec, but it will probably lead to a better English Canada as well.

Based on an article by Michael Bliss in the Globe and Mail, July 1st, 2016

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Two Minutes Hate

I'm not entirely sure how long it took Alexandre Bissonnette to commit his horrible act but I think it's safe to assume that it was an act of hate. And regardless of whatever motives he may come up with, I think it's safe to assume that this guy is not right in the head. No sane reasoning can lead one to the cold-blooded murder of a bunch of innocent civilians. 

In the wake of this tragic event, there were many recriminations in Quebec despite the fact that we know virtually nothing about the killer's motives. Anyone who believes in a stricter understanding of secularism, thinks we may be accepting too many immigrants, or questions Canadian multiculturalism was made somehow guilty.

I won't be addressing any of that. This piece is in response to certain articles that I came across which try put the blame for this atrocity on all Quebecers. These biased articles reminded me of the Two Minutes Hate from George Orwell's book 1984. They aren't any kind of rational exercise which aims to get at truth. They are just an excuse to vent hate.

There was a nasty opinion piece on the CBC's web site doing just that. But what bothered me even more than having Canada's national broadcaster spewing hate against Quebecers was the fact that the Washington Post got a bigot from Vancouver to write an article placing the blame for this massacre on all Quebecers. 

I have a hard time understanding why the Washington Post would ask an anglophone from British Columbia to provide them with insight into Quebec. If they wanted insight into Croatian society would they ask a Serb living in Belgrade? A guy like that might have a biased opinion, don't you think? Well, I have news for you, Washington Post, J.J. McCullough is extremely biased.

Here are some of his claims from this article:

"A disproportionate share of the country’s massacres occur in the province of Quebec."

What is this claim based on? Cherry-picking would be my guess. The Huffington Post recently compiled a list of the thirteen worst mass shootings in Canada's recent history. Only three of them occurred in Quebec. That's pretty proportionate to our share of the population. J.J. only seems to remember the ones that happened in Quebec.

"Criticism of Quebec, meanwhile, is deeply taboo."

This claim is simply mind-boggling. You really need industrial-strength ideological blinders to make such a claim. The Quebec bashing article has become a kind of literary genre in English Canada. Some well-known, professional Quebec-bashers include the late author Mordecai Richler, former radio personality Howard Galganov, and alledged journalists such as Diane Francis and Barbara Kay. These are the more famous, over-the-top Quebec-bashers but there are countless others

J.J. then goes on to depict Jan Wong as some kind of martyr of this imagined "taboo." Let's recall her 15 minutes of fame. In 2006, there was a school shooting at Dawson College in Montreal. The perpetrator, Kimveer Gill, was the son of Indian immigrants. Without any evidence at all Jan Wong wrote an article, published in the Globe and Mail, claiming that the real cause of this and other mass shootings in Quebec was the racism of Quebecers. First of all, if that were true, then why shoot up an anglophone college? 

But Jan went even further. She claimed that Quebecers were obsessed with racial purity based on her interpretation of an antiquated expression, "pure lain" (pure wool), which is used to refer to old stock Quebecers. She claimed that "Elsewhere, to talk of racial purity is repugnant. Not in Quebec."

The claim was just so absurd, and such obvious hate propaganda against Quebecers, that it was called out and condemned by most rational people. J.J. McCullough was clearly not part of that group. J.J. obviously believes that Jan was attacked for speaking some kind of "taboo" truth about Quebec. 

"The English are waking up!" *

J.J. continues by telling us that despite the oppressive censorship on discussing the evils of Quebec, English Canadians are beginning to speak out. They're starting to grumble about "Quebec’s dark history of anti-Semitism, religious bigotry and pro-fascist sentiment", Quebec's "French-supremacist language and assimilation laws," and how Quebecers are "noticeably more racist than the Canadian norm."

I don't want to exaggerate this point, but really, this last bit from J.J. is the equivalent of someone in the U.S. claiming that white people are being oppressed by Blacks and other minorities. The anti-Semitism in Quebec's past has been exposed and it was not very different from the anti-Semitism in English Canada. Canada's Prime-Minister at the time, William Lyon Mackenzie King, was a raging anti-Semite who sent thousands of Jews back to Germany to end up in concentration camps. There are plenty of other examples of the anti-Semitism in English Canada at the time like Toronto's Christie Pits riots. But people like J.J. only seem to remember the anti-Semitism in Quebec for some reason.

Quebec, like Canada, engages in cultural protectionism. Given that we are such a small French-speaking minority living on an overwhelmingly English-speaking continent, calling a law that says that French has to be more prominent on commercial signs "French-supremacist" is a clear sign of bigotry. As for the "charter of values", that also needs to be put in its proper context. But regardless of the context, the basic idea that representatives of the State should not display any overt religious affiliation while performing their duties does not seem like a bad idea to me. My criticism would be in the way this idea was applied.

Also, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that Quebecers are more racist than your average Canadian. We do have a very different history from the rest of Canada and so we have a different perspective in regards to immigration, but Canadians have there own race issues to deal with. It is true that there has been a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in Quebec over the past few years, largely due to the terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin. But this is equally true for other parts of Canada, like Ontario.

The recent events in Quebec City are horrible and disturbing. All Quebecers need to do some soul searching in the face of such an incident. But those who exploit a tragedy like this to vent their hatred of Quebecers should perhaps also be doing some soul searching instead. And to the Washington Post, if you want to give your readers some insight into Quebec society, why not ask someone who is actually lives here next time? 

* Richard Bain, September 4, 2012

Monday, December 26, 2016

Quebec's dependence on Canada

The author is an MP for the Bloc Québécois.

In the absence of our political independence, it seems that many have come to act as if Quebec were already a country and to ignore Ottawa. Yet every day Ottawa decides and acts on our behalf with consequences that, in most cases, serve us very badly. Here are some examples.

Softwood lumber

A new trade dispute over lumber between the United States and Canada has begun and its outcome could be very damaging to the Quebec economy.

The 2006 agreement expired and the American lumber industry filed a complaint on November 25th. The 2006 agreement was a bad deal for Quebec, which led to the loss of 23,000 jobs in the lumber industry.

The new deal could be worse. In the joint statement signed with Barack Obama last June, Prime Minister Trudeau makes no reference to the Quebec system and even opens the door to a future agreement which would include the secondary processing sector.

In order to comply with the NAFTA rules, Quebec has revised its forestry management in depth. An auction system has been put in place to determine the price of wood so that it is no longer subject to compensatory duties, US taxes or quotas.

All this seems to have been done in vain. In order to avoid overshadowing the British Columbia model, Ottawa prefers not to defend the Quebec's forestry system in Washington.

While the Quebec lumber industry wants to wage a legal battle to have its system recognized, the West Coast industry is demanding that an agreement similar to that of 2006 be reached as soon as possible. And everything indicates, for the moment, that Ottawa is leaning in that direction.

The humid and mild climate of BC favors the rapid growth of trees. The forest industry is dominated by large firms and its operating costs are low. It adapts well to compensation rights or quotas, especially since it exports a lot of uncut logs, which are poorly taxed, and that a large part of its production goes to Asia.

If the Quebec lumber industry is allowed to defending itself, there is a good chance that it would win its case. But to do so, it needs loan guarantees to compensate for the punitive customs duties, which will be put in place during the conflict. That's what it wants from Ottawa.

In 2006, without this support and forced into bankruptcy, the lumber industry had to resign itself to accepting a bad deal. This cost us 23,000 jobs and Quebec's share of lumber exports to the United States fell to 18.5%, whereas it was traditionally at 24%.

With a weak-kneed federal government confronting Washington, which once again seems to show a preference for the lumber industry out West, Quebec's forestry industry is once again in jeopardy.

There are 60,000 jobs in 250 towns and villages that are at stake, including 120 rural communities that depend exclusively on forestry.

Without wishing to speculate on the outcome of the new softwood lumber dispute, we at the Bloc Québécois will do everything we can to ensure that Ottawa defends the lumber industry in Quebec, but Ottawa's style of conflict management illustrates how it does not defend Quebec or its economic model.

The textile industry

Unfortunately, the case of lumber is no exception. The issues on which Ottawa lets Quebec down are numerous and constitute the general rule.

In 2002, China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) led to the collapse of our textile industry. Ottawa promised support and assistance for the transition, but in the end, did nothing.

Three years later, 40,000 jobs were lost at the same time as Ottawa was cutting employment insurance, thereby abandoning these people to their fate. It is therefore not surprising that the unemployment rate on the Island of Montreal still exceeds 10%.

The pharmaceutical industry

Nor was anything done to stop the collapse of the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec and its shift to Ontario. A boost from Ottawa would have allowed it to stand out in North American.

With the signing of the Canada-Europe Free Trade Agreement and the announced death of the agreement between the United States and Europe, Quebec would have everything it needs to be an intermediary between Swiss pharmaceuticals and the US market. In addition, Donald Trump announced plans to import more drugs from Canada to lower the price of pharmaceuticals in the United States.

However, there is no indication that Ottawa has any interest in supporting Quebec in this regard.

Supply management in agriculture

The federal government is abandoning our farmers by allowing more and more loopholes in our supply management. Milk and chicken from the United States cross the border without Ottawa intervening to resolve the situation.

The compensations announced for cheese and dairy producers following the adoption of the Canada-Europe Free Trade Agreement are insufficient and place Quebec at a disadvantage.

Whether we like it or not, the price of Quebec's dependence is to see a host of powers and decisions differed to a government controlled by a nation that works first for itself. The result is that the advancement of their nation is to the detriment of our own.

The aerospace industry

When GM closed its automobile plant in Boisbriand Jean Chrétien did nothing. His argument was that Ontario had automobiles and Quebec had aeronautics. And when the auto industry in Ontario struggled in the 2008 crisis, Ottawa did not hesitate to give it billions in aide.

But when it comes to helping out Quebec's aerospace industry, it's another matter. Quebec has not received its fair share of aid programs, with Ontario collecting the lion's share. Ottawa did not offer anything during the layoffs from Bell Helicopter, CAE and Bombardier.

Ottawa continues to postpone the announcement of financial support for Bombardier's C-Series, weakening this Quebecois company and forcing it to make cuts in its other operations. There is every reason to believe that Toronto banks have persuaded Ottawa to put pressure on Bombardier to divest its multi-voting shares, making it vulnerable to external takeover.

With the modernization of Pearson Airport, Ottawa decided to move the Canadian Air Traffic Center from Montreal to Toronto. In Toronto, the runways are not even suitable for the landing of Bombardier C-Series aircraft.

Instead of forcing Air Canada to comply with federal law requiring it to maintain its aircraft primarily in Quebec, the Trudeau government changed the law, abandoned Aveos workers and weakened the Quebec aerospace cluster.

The privatization of Air Canada had as a counterpart a guarantee that the company would always maintain its aircraft primarily in the Greater Montreal area and secondarily in Toronto and Winnipeg.

But with the decline in its demographic and economic weight, Quebec is marginalized in the federation. When Ottawa should intervene for Quebec, its needs are usually ignored. Quebec MPs from federalist parties rarely defend the interests of their nation. The interests of their party always come before the interests of their constituents.

Faced with this reality, the semi-state of Quebec struggles to compensate for the inaction of the Canadian state.


Despite the many environmental issues, the three pan-Canadian parties are advocating the construction of new pipelines, such as Energy East and Keystone XL, in order to double oil production from the tar sands. Regardless of the serious risks of contamination to our rivers and the impact on global warming, jobs in the western provinces are more important. Canadian reality obliges... even the Green Party supports the exploitation of the tar sands!

According to environmental groups, Ottawa still subsidizes the oil industry to the tune of $3.3 billion a year.

Had such amounts been used to develop the green economy and the electrification of transportation, which are areas in which Quebec has the greatest potential, there is every reason to believe that today we could be a world leader in a promising industry.

Instead, the people of Quebec, through their taxes, support a moribund industry that runs counter to their economic interests.

In fact, the strong Canadian dollar in the 2000s, caused by rising oil prices and exports, seriously contributed to the plunge in our manufacturing sector. Unsurprisingly, Ottawa did not adopted any measure or industrial strategy to mitigate this effect on our economy.

The maritime industry

The situation is the same for the shipping industry. Ottawa has awarded its shipbuilding contracts to Irving in Nova Scotia. The volume of these contracts is such that the company is unable to honor them, accumulating delays and cost overruns.

Meanwhile, the Davie shipyard in Lévis is rejected by Ottawa, threatening its survival. As if a seaway like the St. Lawrence could exist without the presence of even a single shipyard!


One of the most outrageous issues is that of Muskrat Falls or the Lower Churchill Project. In order to compete with Hydro-Québec's exports, Newfoundland decided to build a large hydroelectric power plant and an underwater cable to bypass Quebec in order to export electricity.

Since this province does not have the means to develop such a project on its own, it requested financial support from Ottawa. All the federalist parties supported the request and Ottawa's decision to grant a $5 billion loan guarantee. We are faced with a situation where our taxes are used to finance a project that will directly compete with Hydro-Québec. It should be remembered that Hydro-Québec never received any support from Ottawa for its hydroelectric projects.

This major injustice is coupled with a real fiasco in the management of the project. The province is multiplying the blunders and costs are exploding. Economist Jean-Thomas Bernard estimates the cost of producing electricity at 22 ¢ / kWh, while the export selling price is around 4 ¢ / kWh.

We are talking about a $15,000 per capita of debt for Newfoundlanders for this unprofitable project. It is clear that Ottawa will end up paying for this.

Faced with this money pit, Ottawa raised its support from $5 billion to nearly $8 billion and left the door open for additional funding. The federal government is even implying the possibility of imposing the construction of an electricity transmission line in Quebec to link Labrador to Ontario.

The Securities Commission

There are numerous examples of how Ottawa does a poor job of serving Quebec's interests. After the Montreal Stock Exchange was bought up and then closed by Toronto's Stock Exchange, Ottawa sought to merge and centralize the securities commissions in English Canada.

Such a merger would lead to the disappearance of the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) and would once again benefit the Toronto financial sector. This would mean a further erosion of Quebec's powers.

Research and development

Quebec is a leader in many high-tech sectors. As the economy of the rest of Canada relies mainly on the presence of subsidiaries of US companies, there is very little in-house research and development (R & D) in other provinces.

The Greater Montreal region is the second largest center in R & D in North America after Silicon Valley. Almost half of Canadian technology exports come from Quebec.

Since R & D is not an important issue in companies outside Quebec, Ottawa ends up doing very little to support our high-tech sectors. The federal government prefers to support industrial research in the university environment and the subsequent transfer of technology.

Again, the structure of the Quebec economy differs greatly from that of Canada and the federal government adapts its policies to support the economy of its national interests, to the detriment of ours.

Social economy and social programs

It is not surprising that the federal government does nothing to support our social economy. This model is unique to Quebec and virtually non-existent elsewhere in Canada.

With respect to social services, Ottawa withdrew from funding for health, education and other services. This increases the pressure on Québec's public finances and justifies austerity policies.

In its latest changes to employment insurance, Ottawa has set up a special policy for regions affected by lower oil prices, disadvantaging regions of Quebec which were among the first victims of the previous reform regarding seasonal work.

In social services, there is also a form of competition between levels of government. For example, Quebec has adopted a comprehensive homelessness policy, ranging from prevention to reintegration, while Ottawa focuses on homeless shelters. The amounts paid are difficult to predict and Ottawa's measures do not fit very well with Quebec's policy.

The same applies to family policy. While Quebec has decided to promote child care with its CPE policy, the Trudeau government favors family allowances. Pooled under the jurisdiction of a single government, these resources would have provided a more effective family policy.

Consolation prizes

Like it or not, Quebec is still a Canadian province. The Quebec nation continues to be administered by English Canada, which manages economic and social policies first and foremost in accordance with its own interests.

In most cases, this means a lack of support from Ottawa for Quebec which ends up hindering our economic development. Faced with this situation, equalization represents a very poor consolation prize. The same goes for the Trudeau government's infrastructure program. And these are consolation prizes that are largely paid with the taxes we send to Ottawa.

As long as Quebec remains in the Canadian federation, it will be deprived of the tools available to the central government which are currently used to develop the economic interests of English Canada. Therefore, Quebec struggles to take its place in a globalized economy with unequal weapons. 

By Gabriel Ste-Marie, MP for Jolliet, researcher at the Contemporary Economics Research Institute and lecturer at Université du Québec à Montréal

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


For the third part of my inadvertent Propaganda Trilogy... Er... Well, in case you missed it, part one was about how Maclean's Martin Patriquin distorts issues and twists words in order to misinform his readers about Quebec. Part two was on the prezel-like über-twisting of Jean-François Lisée's words by the media as part of their never-ending mission to delegitimize Quebec sovereignists by labeling them as intolerant. And now, in part three, I will look at a bit of propaganda that has been repeated so often that it has practically become dogma. I am referring to the Exodus Myth! This myth has recently been recounted once again in honour the 40th anniversary of the PQ's first election victory:
"The impressive bank towers of the famous Toronto skyline, and the city’s unquestioned standing as the heart of Canada’s financial services industry, owe much to Lévesque and the PQ."
But I think a better telling of this myth can be found in this Globe and Mail article from a few years back:
"After the Second World War, Montreal was undoubtedly the country's premier city. It had the biggest population, the best parties -- Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympics -- a lovely historic centre, a vibrant café culture and, most importantly, economic power. With a little effort, it could have buried upstart Toronto. 
Then came Mr. Lévesque's Parti Québécois, with its Draconian language laws and rejection of all things national. The anglo population -- the business class -- took the path of least resistance and fled to Toronto. Large companies, led by Sun Life, followed. Dull, constipated Toronto began to thrive and soon replaced Montreal as Canada's economic and cultural centre, all because of the Montreal diaspora. Toronto should erect a 50-metre statue of Mr. Lévesque in gratitude."
This myth is meant as a cautionary tale. It's the story of a bad little ethnic group that imagined itself to be a nation and thought it could set its own rules, but then all of the money flew away. Poor, stupid little Quebec! The moral of the story is that it's best to keep your head down, go with the flow, and submit to the dominant ideology.

A few facts

It is, of course, a fact that Toronto overtook Montreal as an economic center during the 20th century, but to make the PQ or Quebec nationalism the scapegoat of this economic shift is extremely dishonest.

The first signs of this shift began decades before the PQ came into existence. The Toronto Stock Exchange surpassed Montreal's Stock Exchange in trading volume in the 1930s, and it is a position Toronto never relinquished. Throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s Toronto outgrew Montreal by quite a bit. If you're only looking at the cities themselves then, yes, it looks as though Toronto finally overtook Montreal in the late 1970s, but as an economic unit, Toronto had really been larger than Montreal for many years. This is because Toronto forms the center of a collection of satellite cities and towns, in addition to its suburbs, which is called a "conurbation." Toronto’s conurbation, which curves around the western end of Lake Ontario, has been nicknamed the Golden Horseshoe.

Montreal’s economic growth, on the other hand, was not enough to create a conurbation. It was contained withing the city and its suburbs. That is why it is deceptive to compare population sizes of the two cities and jump to the conclusion that not until the 1970s had they become more or less equal in economic terms. Toronto supplanted Montreal as Canada’s chief economic center considerably before that, probably before 1960. Again, all of this occurred before Mr. Lévesque's Parti Québécois and its "Draconian language laws."

Why did this shift occur? There are many reasons but put simply, Montreal was the gateway to the inner continent and so it became Canada’s economic center. With the development of the inner continent on both sides of the border, the economic center of gravity moved west and Toronto benefited from this. The development of infrastructure like canals, railways and of course the St. Lawrence Seaway made this shift possible. It should be noted that prior to the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, all ocean-going vessels had to stop in Montreal to unload goods which were then shipped to the Great Lakes on smaller vessels or by rail. The Seaway made it possible for ocean-going vessels to simply bypass Montreal.

We can also point to other culprits like the Auto Pact which helped the automotive industry supplant the pulp and paper industry as the number one industry in Canada. Most of the jobs that resulted from this pact were created in southern Ontario. And so people flocked to the Golden Horseshoe with an estimated 1,000 a month arriving between 1956 to 1961. Between 1965 and 1971, the Toronto Metropolitan Area alone gained 185,530 Canadian migrants. These people came from all over Canada including Quebec.

It is true that there was a spike in out-migration from Quebec following the election of the PQ in 1976, and many of the people leaving were undoubtedly anglophones heading for Toronto, but demographically they were just a drop in the bucket. Their exodus was definitely not responsible for an economic shift that had been going on for decades, nor can we say that Quebec nationalism was the cause of this shift.

The truth is actually the other way around. It was the economic shift from Montreal to Toronto that made a francophone renaissance in Montreal possible and this lead to a new Québécois nationalism. Had Montreal remained the economic center of Canada, all of the people who flocked to Toronto would have come to Montreal instead making Quebec's metropolis an English city and Quebec culture would have remained a museum piece frozen in time as Jane Jacobs described in her wonderful book The Question of Separatism.

Fraser's creative interpretations

Like all good myths, the details often change in its retelling but the moral of the story is generally the same. 

A few months ago a right-wing propaganda mill, the Fraser Institute, produced a study about the inter-provincial migration patterns of Canadians. For some reason, they decided to make it all about Quebec. Their conclusions, which were uncritically repeated in the media, is that Quebec has lost 600,000 people to other provinces since 1971. In the study itself, the authors don't give a clear explanation as to why people seem to be fleeing but they suggest that something is very wrong with Quebec because as the Fraser Institute explains, "The movement of people from one place to another, migration, can be a powerful indicator of a jurisdiction’s success or failure" In fact, the subtitle of their so-called study is "QUEBECKERS VOTE WITH THEIR FEET."

The problem comes when you actually read their shoddy report because it says the following:
"Quebec experienced the lowest level of total out-migration of any of the provinces over the period from 1971/72 to 2014/15. In 2014/15, Quebec experienced out-migration of 3.9 people per 1,000 population while Ontario experienced out-migration of 5.1 people per 1,000 population. The remaining eight provinces recorded out-migration per 1,000 population of between 9.2 (British Columbia) and 23.5 people (Prince Edward Island)."
"Put simply, Quebec had the most stable domestic population in terms of out-migration among the provinces over the period from 1971/72 to 2014/15."

So there you have it, fewer people have left Quebec than any other province. Is that a sign of our success? Aren't Quebecers voting with their feet by staying? The problem is that "Quebec also recorded the lowest level of in-migration of any province between 1971/72 and 2014/15" and so their is a deficit (with the other provinces). Overall, Quebec's population is growing, of course. 

The population of Quebec was 6,027,765 in 1971 and is 8,294,656 today. On the other hand, the population of Newfoundland went from 522,100 in 1971 to 514,536 in 2011. And it is predicted that province’s population will fall to 482,000 by 2035. In fact, the population of Newfoundland is expected to shrink more over the next two decades than in any other part of Canada. So why didn't the Fraser Institute decide to focus this study on Newfoundland? I get the feeling the authors were intent on making a point specifically about Quebec regardless of anything else.

In interviews with the media, the authors gave what they believe are the reasons for Quebec's inter-provincial migration deficit and it basically boils down to high taxes, an anti-business environment, and a relatively closed society. The most obvious reason, language, was barely mentioned. But the fact is, 42% of Quebecers are bilingual whereas the same is true for only 9% of Canadians from outside of Quebec. So moving to Quebec and living and working in a French-speaking environment is simply not feasible for the vast majority of them, hence, they don't move here. Case closed! Who knows, perhaps the constant anti-Quebec propaganda in the Canadian media is also a factor. 

The Fraser Institute obviously started out with their own right-wing, Quebec bashing conclusions and then tried to make the data fit, but it doesn't really. They must have felt confident that no one in the Canadian media would challenge them on their bullshit... and they were right! These right-wing ideologues loath Quebec's more interventionist model and so they've basically recycled the old Exodus Myth in order to attack it. The moral of the story is essentially the same: a bad little ethnic group thought it could set its own rules with disastrous consequences. It's best to keep your head down, go with the flow, and submit to the dominant ideology.  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A more inclusive Bill 101

Recently, there was an opinion piece in the Gazette by Deepak Awasti and Murray Levine which called for a "more inclusive" Bill 101. It's hard to believe that it took two people to write this gibberish but nonetheless the article does contain some of the fallacies that are routinely repeated by the opponents of the Charter of the French language, so it is worth addressing. 

An anglophone minority?

The authors attempt to frame this issue in the context of an oppressive francophone "majority" and a beleaguered anglophone "minority." Quebec, however, does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in a part of the world where English is the dominant, majority language and speakers of this language enjoy all of the benefits of this majority status even when they are a numerical minority, like in Quebec. This fact cannot be simply ignored. It's a rather important detail. Anglophones are a minority in Quebec like white people are a minority in Detroit. It's not really something that marginalizes them in any way.

In fact, when a group of anglophones went before the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in the 1980s claiming that they were victims of violations of article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Committee observed that "provisions of article 27 refers to minorities in States", which English-speaking people in Canada are not. It stated that the "authors therefore have no claim under article 27 of the Covenant."

But even if we consider Anglo-Quebecers as a real minority, they have an enviable situation compared to other minorities. Quebec anglophones have their own publicly funded schools system, which they control. This includes three English-only universities that get almost a third of all government financing for higher education. There are roughly 15 hospitals in Quebec where you are guaranteed service in English. Most government services are available in English on demand. All laws passed in Quebec are written in French and English. You have the right to use English in the National Assembly. In fact, anglophones in Quebec have the right to demand that all of their court proceedings be in English. Therefore a judge in Quebec must be able to render verdicts and pass sentence in English. 

We just need to compare to see the stark differences. In the Greater Sudbury region of Ontario where francophones make up 28% of the population there is only one partially bilingual hospital where, in the words of Denis Constantineau, director of the Sudbury Community Health Center, you can be admitted to the hospital in French, but you will likely die in English because the more you progress in the system, fewer French services are offered.

A study conducted by the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada concluded that: "…access to health care services in French for Franco-Ontarians is severely lacking in hospital services, community health centers, medical clinics, and home care: these four sectors cover most health care services available in Ontario. Hospital emergency services are often the key entry point to the health care system, yet three quarters of Franco-Ontarians are denied such access in their language. 74% of Franco-Ontarians said they have either no access at all or rarely access to hospital services in French. In fact, only 12% claimed that they could access hospital services in French at all times."

Or as we recently saw in the Caron case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Alberta had no constitutional obligation to translate its laws into French. So Quebec anglophones have rights that francophones in most of English Canada do not have.

And setting aside the issue of rights, there is the omnipresence of American and Canadian media (magazines, newspapers, music, TV shows, computer software and video games) which means that the English language occupies a prominent place in Quebec regardless of anything else. Two of the twelve daily newspapers in Quebec are published in English. 19% of magazines and other periodicals published in Quebec are in English. There are 15 English radio stations in Quebec (vs. 11 in 1970). And 35% of all movies shown in theaters in Quebec are in English. All of this leads to English having a greater power of attraction over French even in Quebec.

No real linguistic minority has a situation anywhere near as good as this. Anglophones in North America, whether they are in Quebec or not, are simply not a minority. They are part of the overwhelming majority. The real minority in this story are the North American francophones. Trying to remove this fact from the context is dishonest.

The sign law

Quebec's sign law seem to produce most of the hysteria from Quebec's anglophone community. It is their most tangible evidence for oppression. I admit that the original version of this law (the French only version) was controversial even though I don't think it violated freedom of expression which is meant to protect the pluralism of political, ideological and artistic expression and is only remotely related to commercial signs. And even with that version of the law, anglophones in Quebec continued to do business in English. The sign law did not prevent anglophone merchants from advertising in English on radio and television and in newspapers, neighborhood publications, etc. It only affected commercial signs. But why regulate the language of commercial signs?

I often compare Quebec's sign law to regulations which aim to preserve a city's unique architectural heritage. Many cities around the world have regulations regarding new construction to ensure that these buildings are architecturally and contextually compatible with the existing streetscape. The reason for this is that some cities have a very unique architectural style and the people who live in these cities wish to preserve it. If they allow people to build whatever they want, over time, that unique style could vanish. 

Quebec is the only French-speaking society in North America. A majority of Quebecers want to preserve this unique trait and feel that people who do business here should contribute to this uniqueness instead of contributing to the dominant current of cultural homogenization. And so, we have regulations to ensure that the “visage linguistique” in Quebec remains predominately French. 

When the Supreme Court ruled against the "French only rule" of Bill 101's sign law (Ford v. Quebec), it still conceded that the purpose of the legislation —to assure the quality and influence of the French language in Quebec— was a valid one. English had become so commonplace in the “visage linguistique” of the province that it “strongly suggested to young and ambitious francophones that the language of success was almost exclusively English. It confirmed to anglophones that there was no great need to learn French. And it suggested to immigrants that the prudent course lay in joining the anglophone community.” Given this threat to the French language, the court decided that although an outright ban was unreasonable, it would not be unreasonable to require “the predominant display of the French language, even its marked predominance.” So the sign law as it exists now is based on the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada. 

The idea behind Bill 101

There is no denying that Quebec is unique in that it is the only majority francophone state in North America. It is the only society on this continent where you can do pretty much whatever you want to do in life and succeed at the highest levels in French. But the existence of this francophone society in Anglo North America is precarious given the overwhelming dominance of English. Therefore, certain protectionist measures are justified. The Supreme Court of Canada could see the legitimacy of this and most reasonable people can see it too, but there are some who simply refuse to see it.

In their article Awasti and Levine claim that wanting to make French the common language of all Quebecers is excluding people. I really don't see how. Having French as the common langue in Quebec does not mean that it is the only language spoken here just as English is not the only language spoken in Toronto, but it is the common language. People don't get upset if they have to speak English to get some kind of service in Toronto, it's just normal.

Bill 101 aims to create that kind of normalcy for French in Quebec. But some people feel that it is their God-given right as Canadians to never have to speak anything other than English from sea to shining sea. Of course, francophones can never hope to expect such a thing with French, but who cares about that. Anglophones obviously have some greater value which means that they should never be expected to speak the language of "the other."

Are the authors of this article really motivated by a desire for equality and inclusiveness or could something else be motivating them? Well, as it happens, one of the co-authors (Murray Levine) has visited my Facebook page on a number of occasions, and he made the following comment during a discussion on the possible partitioning of an independent Quebec:

"With 70% against separation and the low birth rate of the Quebecois the point is moot. There is not going to be separation and there will likely be no partition. We are stuck with the pouriture of Amerique de nord until Montcalm rises from the dead and defeats Wolfe!"
Murray Levine, Why Quebec needs independence page, April 4th, 2013

Yes, that's right Murray seems to think that an entire people are nothing but rot ("pouriture" [sic] is French for "rot"). Maybe this explains why he is so vehemently opposed to the idea of French as the common language in Quebec. Maybe it's not really about a desires for a more "inclusive" Quebec after all. Maybe his opposition to Bill 101 actually comes from a much darker place. Whatever the case may be, I don't think we need any lessons on inclusiveness from Murray Levine.