Monday, September 7, 2015

The problem with Canadian federalism

Survivance versus Ambivalence

The two solitudes in Canadian society have long disagreed on a number of fundamental questions. It thus should not be surprising that Quebecers and Canadians have very different perceptions about the purpose and significance of federalism. Canadians have always had ambivalent feelings about federalism in general and antipathetic sentiments about classical federalism in particular. Canadians have tended to view federalism as a hindrance to national unity, and have thus reluctantly accepted the federal form of government, and only then on the understanding that the federal government would be superior to the provincial governments. Quebecers long promoted classical federalism as the best means to ensure cultural survival in a largely English-speaking country, but their faith in the federal form of government has been seriously undermined by the ambivalence towards federalism in the rest of Canada. Quebecers, historically at least, have always wanted more federalism while English-Canadians have generally wanted less federalism. Asymmetrical federalism has emerged as the two solitudes have pushed federalism in opposite directions. 

Sir John A. Macdonald was a reluctant federalist. In the Confederation Debates of 1865 on the proposed British North America Act, he stated a clear preference for a legislative union, and he accepted federalism only when he was satisfied that the proposed constitution empowered the general government with “all the powers which are incident to sovereignty.” Macdonald assumed that matters of national importance would be the responsibility of the federal government, while the provincial governments would be responsible for all matters of merely local importance. The leader of the opposition from Quebec, Antoine Aimé Dorion, agreed entirely with Macdonald’s characterization of the constitution and consequently rejected it. Dorion argued that “that the Federal Parliament will exercise sovereign power, inasmuch as it can always trespass upon the rights of the local governments without there being any authority to prevent it...We shall be – I speak as a Lower Canadian – we shall be at its mercy.”

While Sir Georges Cartier is largely credited with selling the proposed constitution to skeptical Quebecers, Dorion’s fears were most squarely addressed in the Confederation Debates by Joseph Cauchon, a Conservative backbencher. Cauchon endorsed the draft constitution because, contradicting Macdonald, he claimed, "There will be no absolute sovereign power, each legislature having its distinct and independent attributes, and not proceeding from one or the other by delegation, either from above or from below. The Federal Parliament will have legislative sovereign power in all questions submitted to its control in the Constitution. So also the local legislatures will be sovereign in all matters which are specifically assigned to them." In the end, the draft BNA Act was adopted by the comfortable margin of 91 to 33, but among French Canadian voters in Lower Canada the split was a much narrow 27 to 21.

Dorion and Cauchon sparred vigorously throughout the Confederation Debates in the Canadian legislature. The ferocity of this debate cannot be underestimated. It was far more than partisan politics. At issue was the survival of the French Canadian population in the province of Quebec. Dorion was obviously convinced that the proposed constitution was detrimental to French Canadian interests. On the other hand, Cauchon revealed Quebec’s conditional endorsement of confederation: Quebec could only accept the proposed constitution if it entrenched what we now call “classical” federalism. As far as Macdonald was concerned, classical federalism was the principal cause of the American Civil War, and he was adamant that Canada would have none of it. The character of Canadian federalism has changed since Macdonald’s day, but the government of Canada has never embraced the principles of classical federalism, nor have the citizens of English Canada.

It is frequently argued – at least in English-speaking Canada – that it is impossible to maintain the principles of classical federalism in an age of economic interdependence. Without questioning the merits of that argument, it would seem that the government of Canada has made very little effort to maintain the independence of the two orders of government in its pursuit of the economic and social unions, both of which have their origins in the federal government’s “Green Book Proposals” and the first Conference on Reconstruction in August 1945. Mackenzie King opened the Conference on Reconstruction with reassuring words for the provinces: "The federal government is not seeking to weaken the provinces, to centralize all the functions of government, to subordinate one government to another or to expand one government at the expense of the others....we believe that the sure road of Dominion-Provincial co-operation lies in the achievement in their own spheres of genuine autonomy for the provinces."

Later that day, however, Louis St. Laurent elaborated that the objectives of the federal government’s post-war reconstruction program were “high and stable employment and income” and he stated clearly that the “division of responsibility [in Canada’s federal system] should not be permitted to prevent any government, or governments in cooperation, from taking effective action.” On behalf of the government of Quebec, Maurice Duplessis rejected the federal proposals, saying the “complete autonomy of the Provinces constitutes the best safeguard for the protection of minorities as well as an essential condition of national unity and progress in Canada.” Once again, Quebec’s demand for classical federalism fell on deaf ears.

The conference collapsed after Duplessis’s departure, but most of the shared cost proposals made by the federal government were realized in a more piecemeal fashion in the quarter century that followed. The government of Quebec forcefully resisted most of these initiatives, and in 1953 it established a Royal Commission of Inquiry on Constitutional Problems, chaired by Thomas Tremblay, to investigate the operation of Canadian federalism. The Commission expressed the view that federalism was still the preferred option of a majority of Quebecers, but it endorsed a quintessentially classical definition of federalism as an “association between states in which the exercise of state power is shared between two orders of government, coordinate but not subordinate one to the other, each enjoying supreme power within the sphere of activity assigned to it by the constitution.

The Tremblay report, however, had no impact on the government of Canada and its relations with Quebec. On the contrary, the battles between the governments of Canada and Quebec over pension plans, medicare, and other social policies severely strained the federation over the next decade. In 1968, Lester Pearson outlined the federal government’s position in Federalism for the Future. While he was genuinely concerned with linguistic rights, he noted that “the division of powers between orders of government should be guided by principles of functionalism and not by ethnic considerations” and he proceeded to outline an extensive list of powers he deemed essential for the federal government. This list of powers was excerpted and included as an appendix by René Lévesque in his 1978 autobiography La passion du Québec under the heading “Federal Evangelism.” He offered no additional commentary but his implication was clear: if this was going to be the future of federalism in Canada, Quebec would have no part in it.

For the past forty years, the principal conflict between the governments of Canada and Quebec has been the federal spending power – which empowers to the federal government to spend money on matters that it cannot legislate, primarily matters that fall constitutionally in areas of provincial jurisdiction. Whatever the constitutionality of the spending power may be, it is not compatible with the classical conception of federalism, a point that has been acknowledged by the federal government. In 1969, Pierre Trudeau argued in Federal Provincial Grants and the Spending Power of Parliament that "It can be argued that the Constitution should be contrived so as to avoid any need for a spending power – that each government ought to have the revenue sources it needs to finance its spending requirements without federal assistance.... The difficulty with this tidy approach to federalism is that it does not accord with the realities of a Twentieth Century state." Trudeau insisted that "[t]he modern industrial state is so interdependent, particularly in technological and economic terms, and its population is so mobile, that it has become quite impossible to think of government policies and programmes as affecting the people within the jurisdiction of the particular government responsible for these policies."

Thirty years later, the federal government’s view of the spending power was embedded in the Social Union Framework Agreement, an agreement endorsed by all the governments of Canada save Quebec. So, once again, the English Canadian conception of federalism prevailed.

From the constitutional debates in 1865 through to SUFA, English and French Canadians have viewed the merits and purposes of federalism very differently. Will Kymlicka has argued that “it is almost inevitable that nationality-based units [in a federation] will seek different and more extensive powers than regional-based units.” For Kymlicka, then, asymmetrical federalism emerges as these nationality-based units acquire additional powers. But, he argues, asymmetrical federalism is resisted by English-Canadians because they understand federalism in territorial terms. The purpose of territorial federalism – following the American example – is to divide power between several governments to avoid tyranny. The territorial model of federalism assumes that there are no relevant cultural distinctions among the units in the federation.

The government of Quebec has sensed the resistance towards federalism in English Canada, and they have indicated a willingness to allow the federal government to assume a dominant role in the life of English Canadians so long as Quebec is exempt from federal initiatives in areas of provincial jurisdiction, hence opting-out provisions, footnote federalism, and various policy asymmetries in Canadian federalism. On this point, however, English-Canadians raise objections on equality grounds, as Kymlicka rightly notes. Quebec has always sought to maintain its cultural distinctiveness through classical federalism. English-Canadians, however, reject classical federalism in principle. Canadians seem to believe that once a matter reaches a certain level of importance the federal government should assume a role in its governance for all Canadians, regardless if the matter is one of provincial jurisdiction. As English-Canadians reject both classical and asymmetrical federalism, it is little wonder then that Quebec nationalists have given up on Canadian federalism.

Why sovereignty?

From the very beginning of the federation, Quebecers have accepted the fact they were a nation within a nation (or a nation within a multination state). They have accepted their multiple identities, as Quebecers and as Canadians. But Canadians have always refused to recognize the existence of a Quebec people or nation within Canada, and after the departure of Lester B. Pearson, they began to make this rejection more and more explicit.

The transformation of a French-Canadian nationalism into a Quebec nationalism took place during the 1960s. One result of this process was a series of platforms adopted by various Quebec governments. A few examples of these are the 1962 Lesage government's request that Quebec be granted special status; the position of the Daniel Johnson Union Nationale government in 1966, based on the principle of "equality or independence"; the 1967 position of the Liberal party, which proposed a framework between "Associated states"; and the position of the 1970 Robert Bourassa Liberal government which requested that Quebec be granted a "distinct society" status. All of these repeated requests for more political autonomy met with failure during constitutional negotiations and commissions of inquiry.

All of these fruitless negotiations led to the election of the (sovereignist) Parti Québécois in 1976, which promised to hold a referendum on Quebec sovereignty. This referendum, which took place in 1980, was to conclude a process of national affirmation that had begun in the 1960's. Its purpose was to give Quebec a mandate to negotiate political sovereignty and an economic association with Canada. A victory for the "yes" side would have given rise to a second referendum in which the Quebec people would be given a chance to ratify the agreement. This referendum resulted in defeat for the sovereignists.

The referendum defeat of 1980 was due in part to the promises for change made by the Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Yet these changes did not materialize, quite to the contrary. In 1981, the Federal government went ahead with its plans to patriate the Constitution, which was still at that time in England. This patriation essentially enabled Canada to modify all by itself its own constitution. However, the patriation took place without reaching a preliminary agreement among the provinces concerning a new sharing of powers between the levels of government as Quebec had been requesting for many years.

The new constitutional law took effect in 1982 despite the fact that the people had not been consulted. In addition, the federal government ignored a nearly unanimous resolution put forward by Quebec's National Assembly which rejected this new constitutional order. Indeed, the new constitutional order incorporated a charter of rights that contained several new clauses severely limiting Quebec's power over matters of language and culture. It was also a document that did not reflect Quebec's interests and answered none of Quebec's historical demands. Finally, it incorporated an amending formula which is not applicable in practice. It should be noted that the constitution, which has governed Canada since 1982, was never ratified by the people of Quebec or by the successive Quebec governments (either federalist or sovereignist), and it has never been signed by Quebec.

Following this patriation, Quebec tried in vain to negotiate constitutional amendments that would enable it to sign the Canadian Constitution. It asked Canada to adopt five simple clauses, contained in the Meech Lake Accord that would fulfill the minimal conditions for Quebec's signature. This attempt at reform failed in 1990, since legislatures of two provinces refused to ratify the accord. The inclusion of Quebec in the constitution was refused despite the fact that its five conditions were minimal in nature, and would have partly helped to repair the damage done by the 1982 show of political force. Symbolically speaking, the most important of these was the clause granting Quebec a "distinct society" status, and it was this one in particular that Canada refused to accept in 1990.

At that point in time, opinion polls in Quebec indicated that popular support for sovereignty had risen to nearly 65%. Despite its federalist allegiance, the government of Quebec, in power since 1985, felt obliged to form a commission on the political and constitutional future of Quebec — the Bélanger-Campeau Commission — which heard the testimony of people from all walks of life and representatives from a wide spectrum of opinion. In 1991, the Commission recommended that the Quebec government begin preparation for a second referendum on sovereignty to be held the following year, if no formal offer was made by Canada. At the very last minute a Canada-wide referendum on the Charlottetown Accord was proposed. This accord was based on a new constitutional agreement between all the provinces, including the federalists in power in Quebec. It involved some of the points that were contained in the Meech Lake Accord and some additional considerations concerning decentralization. The referendum took the place of the one that would have occurred the same day on sovereignty, but it was also voted down (NO : 55% YES : 45%).

Between 1980 and 1995, Quebec was thus witness to the illegitimate patriation of the Constitution, the imposition of a new constitutional order, the failure of the Meech Lake Accord and the failure of the Charlottetown Accord. In addition, at the time of the 1993 federal election, the Bloc Québécois, a new federal party working to advance Quebec sovereignty, appeared. The party won 54 out of Quebec's 75 seats in Parliament. In the 1994 provincial election, the Parti Québécois regained power in the Quebec National Assembly by promising to hold a referendum on sovereignty the following year. This referendum finally took place in October 1995. The results were 50.6% for the NO side and 49.4% for the YES side but evidence that the federal government illegally funded the NO side has cast doubt on the legitimacy of this result. What is certain is that the issue is by no means resolved.

What is clear is that Canadians reject the existence of a Quebec people or nation. They have rejected the bicultural aspect of the federation underlined by the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission. They have discarded the asymmetric federalism promoted by the Pepin-Robarts Commission. They patriated the Constitution without the consent of Quebecers and against the will of its National Assembly. They have imposed a new constitutional order which does not recognize the existence of a Quebec people, does not meet the historical demands of Quebec, and does not reflect its interests. They have rejected the distinct society clause that was contained in the Meech Lake Accord. They even tried to deny the moral right of self-determination to Quebec by putting the matter in the hands of the Supreme Court.

Canadians like to portray Quebec as a petulant child, always making irrational demands and never satisfied with what it gets (which usually ends up being whatever Canada decides to impose). But in reality, Quebec's position on constitutional matters and its view of federalism has always been rational and consistent. It is the rationality of Canada's consistent rejection of Quebec's demands that we need to question.

In conclusion: Root causes and necessary effects 

No account of the problems of Canadian federalism would be complete without an explanation of the underlying motives of the protagonists in this little drama. What are the root causes behind this persistent disagreement over classical federalism? To answer this, the importance of Canada’s origins cannot be overstated. Indeed, the modern Canadian state is the end product of a long historical development that begins with conquest. The ensuing relationship between the French-speaking nation and the English-speaking nation in Canada was never a relationship between equals. One nation clearly dominated the other and at times actively sought its disappearance.

It is this unequal relationship that explains all of the acts of legal violence done by Canada against Quebec, such as the imposition of the 1982 Constitution against Quebec’s will. A Constitution that comes with a charter supposedly to protect individual rights but also, by coincidence, reduces the powers of Quebec’s National Assembly. A Constitution that undermines legislation like Bill 101, designed to protect the French language in Quebec. This undermining was upheld by the Supreme Court, whose judges are appointed, also coincidentally, by Ottawa.

The disagreement over federalism therefore comes down to questions of national identity. Quebecers want the classical form of federalism because it will guarantee them a measure of autonomy that cannot be arbitrarily abolished whenever Canada considers it inconvenient. This is the attitude of a people who care about their nation and want to protect its interests. Canadians, on the other hand, want a form of federalism that is ever more centralized, because they know this will strengthen Canadian power and identity. They are also viscerally opposed to any recognition of Quebec as a distinct society, nation or anything else, because they know that such an identity would rival and undermine the Canadian identity in Quebec. On the other hand, a system with a strong central government and the provinces reduced to mere administrative units, a system with no national distinctions, a system under the highly symmetrical but totally unrealistic official languages act, would in the long run lead to the demise of Quebec’s national identity along with the French language.

Quebec as a nation cannot exist within Canadian federalism; this should be abundantly clear by now. However, there are Quebecers who, out of fear or a sense of self-loathing, still blind themselves to this obvious fact and still cling to the idea that a compromise is possible or, as is the case with our current Primer, Phillippe Couillard, don’t seem to have any demands left. This type of complete capitulation is a road to disaster for Quebec. Quebec must declare itself to be sovereign nation in order to break free from this relationship of dominance and exist as a free people. We cannot completely melt into a centralized Canada without losing who we are as a people and assimilating. Canadians have clearly said no to any recognition of a Quebec nation within Canada, so the only logical, realistic alternative to capitulation and assimilation is independence for Quebec.

Based on articles by Hamish Telford, Department of Political Science, University College of the Fraser Valley, and Michel Seymour, Department of Philosophy, University of Montreal

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Quebec's language laws and schools

Quebec’s language laws limit access to English schools for most citizens of the province. This is true...

Yet, if any other Canadian province or American state wanted to offer its linguistic minorities access to the kind of education network Quebec finances for its anglophone minority, every single one of them would have to increase dramatically the number of minority schools and the amount of money spent on them.

For example, if American states were expected to give their Spanish-speaking minority the same education rights that Quebec gives to its English-speaking minority, then New Mexico, California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, Utah, Rhode Island, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Kansas – all states that have more Spanish-speakers than Quebec has English-speakers – would have to create a second publicly funded Spanish-language schools system.

Although all Canadian provinces have some minority education rights and schools, no other provincial minority has the vast network of schools, colleges and universities that English-speakers in Quebec have access to. There are in Quebec about 367 English public schools, 4 English public colleges called CEGEPs and 3 English universities.

In fact, if you use that standard definition of a major university as one that has both a law school and a medical school – New Brunswick’s Université de Moncton, the only autonomous French-language university outside Quebec, does not have the latter – then Quebec is the only state or province to fund a complete education system for its linguistic minority.

That’s if you accept the premise that English-speaking North Americans can be considered a minority at all…

Quebec’s dual school system is, in fact, as old as Canada. It was a compromise of sorts between the Protestant industrialists of Montreal and the all-powerful Catholic clergy who agreed that the province would have two completely separate and independently run school systems: one Protestant, one Catholic, which with time morphed into French and English-language systems. The dual school systems were constitutionalised in 1867 and, to this day, Quebec is the only Canadian province constitutionally obligated to maintain "separate but equal" schools.

Putting limits

In 1969, just a couple of years after the United States government had to send in the army to protect black students being integrated into Little Rock, Arkansas schools in spite of the violent opposition of a certain segment of the white population, the municipality of Saint-Léonard on the island of Montreal went through its own episodes of violent riots over the integration of minorities.

The only difference is that in the case of Saint-Léonard, the white, French-speaking majority was rioting against segregation, not in support of it.

Francophones in Montreal had become increasingly alarmed to see the vast majority of new immigrants to Quebec sending their children to English Schools. That situation, combined with the demographic decline of francophones in Canada and the availability of an extensive and totally free network of English schools in Quebec meant that within one generation French-speakers could have become a minority in Montreal.

Quebec’s francophones, representing about 80% of the population of Quebec but barely 2% of North Americans, were put in the position where they had to assist their neighbors in anglicizing immigrants. Not only were francophones being assimilated, but they were paying for it.

In 1977 the government of Quebec adopted the Charter of the French Language, known as bill 101, which made French the mandatory language of primary and secondary education. From that moment on, all residents of Quebec – except the anglophone minority and the First Nations – had to send their children to French schools from the 1st grade through to the end of High School.

Many people in Quebec’s anglophone community and in the rest of Canada were angered by this apparent limit to their freedom to choose their children’s language of instruction. Few noted that Quebec was the only place on the continent where an actual school network made that choice possible at all.

In any case, parents who have attended English schools anywhere in Canada have the privilege to send their children to either school network in Quebec. It is only francophones and new immigrants – those who make the informed decision of living in the French-speaking part of Canada – who are limited to French Schools.

In 1972, before the adoption of the Charter, only 10% of immigrants to Quebec sent their children to French schools. Since the adoption of bill 101 the situation has reversed. Parents who send their kids to private schools can still send them to English schools as long as the school does not receive government funding.

Freedom of choice remains total when it comes to higher education and students can study in English at college-level (CEGEPs) or in one of Quebec’s three English-language universities.

Yes, but it's your own fault!

After the defeat of the Rebellions of 1837-38 and the Act of Union of 1840, the French-speaking nation in Quebec was reduced to a minority status in a manner that shaped its national consciousness. French Canadians began to see themselves as an ethnic group in someone else's country. So, French Catholic schools in Quebec basically ended up as ethnic "French-Canadian" schools in the same sense that Jewish schools in Montreal are for Jews. No one in these schools really thought about or even cared about the integration of immigrants. 

In the 1960s a new national consciousness arose in Quebec which saw a shift from an ethnic model of the nation to a model which is at once civic, territorial, pluralistic, inclusive, and francophone and in 1964 French schools were taken out of the hands of the Catholic Church and secularized.

So saying that French Catholic schools weren't interested in integrating immigrants is not untrue but to pretend that this was the only thing pushing immigrants to opt for English in Quebec is a gross distortion of reality. Although there were certainly cases of immigrants being refused entry into French Catholic schools, this type of exclusion was in no way systemic. From the records of the Montreal Catholic School Commission, we can see that they did, in fact, admit immigrants into their schools, both French and English. We can also see that the demand by Catholic immigrants to Quebec for English schools grew steadily throughout the 20th century. In any case, by the mid-60s all immigrants had access to secular francophone schools but few chose them, preferring English schools instead. 

In a sense, it's an understandable choice. English was the language of money and power in Quebec and it was the language that dominated the continent including Montreal. Francophones earned on average 35% less than anglophones even with the same level of education. But regardless of this, Angryphones like to say that immigrants chose English over French because we were just a bunch of nasty, xenophobic frogs who excluded them from our schools. They conveniently ignore other factors, like the dominance and power of attraction of English as a reason. In any case, we eventually chose not to publicly fund English education for all of our immigrants. I think not making that choice would have been an act of suicide for our nation.

The dilemma

Quebec’s English-speaking minority has a right to its own parallel school system. To this day, anyone who has studied at least one year in an English school somewhere in Canada is allowed to opt out of the majority’s school system.

This, of course, is rationalized on the principal of some supposed right of children to receive education in their own language. That’s interesting because, at least in Montreal, the majority of English-speaking youth are not studying in English at all!

According to the English Montreal School Board as many as three out of four primary school students spend most of their school day in classes taught in French. The so-called “core” program where the majority of classes are taught in English is the least popular of all the school board’s options and is being abandoned by parents who demand immersion and biliteracy curriculum for their children.

Even Quebec’s stuffy English Private Schools that only a generation ago prepared kids in penny loafers to rule the world in English are now falling over themselves to provide rich people with the French the publicly-funded system can’t afford. The students of Westmount’s Selwyn Housenow spend between 50% and 80% of their class time studying in French and have even added a French verse to their school hymn! (Which, I believe, was the number 3 demand in the FLQ manifesto.)

Outside Montreal the situation is even stranger with many English schools having a majority of French students and very few actual Anglos exercising their right to receive an English-language education in Quebec. In Quebec City close to 60% of the students in English schools are francophones. This is possible because French-speaking, or for that matter, any family that has obtained a certificate of eligibility to English schools through, for example, a mixed marriage, can keep passing the privilege along to further generations until the End of Time.

Hey, it’s not that it’s a bad idea for Quebec’s English-speaking kids to take classes in French. What’s profoundly bizarre is the concept of English-speaking children immersing themselves in French in schools with no French kids, two blocks away from an actual French school…

As even the Montreal Gazette reported, the result is technically bilingual kids who don’t know any French people and who are uncomfortable ordering a burger in French at McDonald's.

On the French side there is growing tension between proponents and opponents to the kind of bilingual programs that have become common on the English side. While there is a lot of demand for them, opponents feel that the French schools’ mission of integrating immigrants into Quebec society, especially in Montreal, could be seriously compromised if more English was introduced in the schools.

As a result, many French-speaking families in Montreal are massively abandoning the public school system for private schools that offer, among other things, better English classes. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of students in Montreal’s private schools leaped by 30%.

All this together leads to a profoundly dyslexic school arrangement. Immigrants to Quebec are now integrating themselves into Quebec society in schools with no French-speaking Québécois, while Quebec francophones send their children to private schools. Montreal Anglos are building their own parallel French school network with no French students while francophones in the rest of the province are keeping an English school system alive even though there are no more actual English-speaking students.

Becoming independent will allow us to normalize our school situation as it will normalize many things in our society. It will allow us to break free from the constitutional straitjacket of the BNAA and of the 1982 constitution. Our language will no longer be a regional, minority language and will instead become the national language of an independent country. An immigrant to an independent Quebec will not be confused about which country he is immigrating to and will understand that French is our common language. Basically, independence will allow us to become a country like any other and we will cease to be a people who lives in fear of being absorbed into a larger nation that refuses to recognize our existence.

Based on two articles by Angry French Guy

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Demonization of Quebec

Quebec nationalism = racism

Racism and Its Metamorphoses

Like mushrooms in the undergrowth, ideologies which seem to have been buried once and for all are always ready to reappear with the slightest rain. The main difference between ideologies and mushrooms is that the former always reappear in new forms. In order to impose itself again, an old and discredited idea must first undergo a metamorphosis, for it must be readily perceived as a new idea. 

The “classical” racist discourse had a certain structure which went beyond making accusations. It claimed to be an ideology based on a scientific theory. Racist theories were based on the idea of races and the psychological, cultural, social, and political superiority of some races over others. This ideology constituted a political weapon of persuasion justifying the domination or the privileges of the “superior races”.

However, this type of “classical” racism has largely been de-legitimized during the twentieth century. Today, real or imagined differences in cultures, languages, customs, and life-styles have taken over the role of race. Albert Memmi’s famous definition, adopted by the Encylopedia Universalis and UNESCO, describes racism as “the generalized and final assigning of values to real or imaginary differences, to the accuser's benefit and at his victim's expense, in order to justify the former's own privilege or aggression”. 

Some authors now speak in terms of a contemporary “neo-racism”, in part because of its ideological metamorphoses, in part because of its discursive modes of racialization (implicit, indirect). In other words, this neo-racism has apparently shifted from race to culture and since it can no longer be displayed legitimately, it manifests itself more indirectly in a symbolic mode. 

But despite its metamorphoses, the fundamental structure of racism, just like its underlying function remains unchanged. It is always made up of two major analytical logics: differentiation and inferiorization. In its most common and spontaneous form, the ideological metamorphoses of contemporary racism no longer allow the basic racist categorization to be expressed through the establishment of a hierarchy of races, but according to criteria which appear more legitimate (e.g. those who can be assimilated versus those who cannot), and which are rationalized in cultural terms. In its political form, this new categorization acquires greater legitimacy in a pluralist ideology based on the diversity of cultures than on a classical racist ideology. 

Although the modalities of racism have changed, its structure and mechanisms remain the same. Racism remains an aggressive rejection of “the Other”, the goal of which is to legitimize a dominant position and to justify a feeling of superiority at the expense of “the Other”, especially those who have already been “defeated by history”. However, racists want neither the disappearance of their object nor the disappearance of its “differences”. Rather, they want to maintain its humiliated presence in order to confirm their domination and advantages. As Memmi reminds us, “To understand a given form of racism, one must always ask how this particular racist benefits from this particular victim”. 

National Representations as a Backdrop to Racism

Quebec: clearly an inferior people
Although Quebec nationalism was established on the basis of a historical relation of domination, it would be difficult to pinpoint with any certainty the elements of that relation which are still active today. Among other things, Quebec-Canada relations are currently characterized less by pure domination than by competition between two national visions with universalist aspirations.

However, there is a representation of the Canadian nation (especially since 1982) as a country made up of numerous cultural minorities, two official languages, and ten equal provinces, and a strong central state that looks after it. According to this representation, federal institutions possess a moral superiority and ensure not only the respect of equality among the provinces and among citizens, but also the protection of minorities in Canada. This presumption of moral superiority is based on the representation of a Canada “which has no history of slavery”, “which did not exterminate the Indians”, “which allowed francophones to keep their institutions and their language” and “which is more egalitarian than the United States” because it is concerned with maintaining its social programs.

In Quebec, however, the dominant representations diverge in many ways from those prevailing in English Canada. The historical development of Quebec society is generally defined as a shift from an ethnic model of the nation to a model which is at once civic, territorial, pluralistic, inclusive, and francophone. Because the thesis of self-determination is largely shared by both federalist and sovereignist Quebecers, the idea that Quebecers constitute “an ethnic minority like any other in Canada” is perceived as an insult and as nonsense in historical terms. 

So the backdrop to this particularly Canadian form of racism is the conflict between the now widely accepted Canadian “national idea” and a Quebec that cannot be assimilated to the Canadian universalism. The result is an impulse to reduce Quebecers with their competing nationalism and their own concepts of universalism to an ethnic group with racist designs. 

The circular logic of racism can become convenient: those who reject this “best country in the world”, this multicultural, bilingual, and egalitarian country, are either “ethnics who cannot be assimilated” to universalism, or “false Canadians” who hate us and no doubt deserve our hatred. These “unstable”, “dissatisfied” people, who want to destroy this nice place, justify our legitimate self-defense.

Generally speaking, collective conflicts are nourished by these ingredients. The step from fear to hostility, then from hostility to aggression, is easily made. Fear, first expressed in the form of “We love Quebec” on October 27, 1995, was succeeded by a new partitionist movement among anglophone Quebecers who feared losing their membership in Canada’s majority group. This movement, marginalized at first, was subsequently legitimized by the federal government, which now no longer excludes two possibilities: that of formulating territorial claims during negotiations with a sovereign Quebec, in order to attach some “federalist enclaves” to Canada; and that of reprisals or even defending its territory by force. Although there has been a constant fear of Canada’s balkanization in English Canada, it is used much more as a weapon against the adversary (partition, Plan B, etc.). We’ve seen ideologically rationalized justifications in order to make these fears politically legitimate. The Canadian media have provided eloquent examples of the de-legitimization of the Parti Quebecois through the demonization (even Nazification) of sovereignists.  

Gerry Weiner: From Accusation to Demonization via Inferiorization

Gerry Weiner, former federal Minister of Immigration, launched an attack on Quebec that exemplified the common argument that Quebecers constitute an ethnic group trying to impose (by force) their language onto others. Quebec, in this view, is not a nation or a society possessing liberal and democratic institutions, as well as a diversified public, social, and cultural life. Quebecers are just one of many ethnic groups in Canada and it is therefore unacceptable that French become the integration language for immigrants in Quebec.

In August 1997, Weiner accused the sovereignist government of Quebec of wanting to create an “ethnocentric Francophone enclave” through its immigration policy. In his press conference, held in Ottawa on August 28, 1997, he labelled the Quebec immigration policy “racist” because it would favour persons who spoke French to the detriment of those who spoke another language. Two mechanisms are employed here: demonization and the inferiorization of Quebec institutions. The demonization of the adversary occurs through the historical de-contextualization of Quebec’s public policies. The current selection grid for immigration applicants (and its point system), as well as the efforts made to encourage people from francophone countries to immigrate to Quebec, are the results of policies adopted by the federalist Quebec Liberal Party, policies which Weiner never denounced when he was federal Minister of Immigration and which had not changed when he made his accusations. 

Lucien Bouchard as you-know-who...
The mechanism intended to demonstrate the moral superiority of Canadian institutions in order to delegitimize the PQ government was then employed: “This country had a non-discriminatory immigration policy. It’s clear that Quebec is building an ethnocentric French-speaking enclave by a careful method of selecting immigrants”. In his declaration, Weiner even asked the federal government to put a stop to this manoeuvre, even though Quebec has not changed its policy since the accord signed with the federal government in 1991. “The federal government is sitting by, silently watching the separatists ram their agenda down the throats of Canadians by imposing racist and discriminatory immigration policies … Where is Ottawa?” His discourse adopts arguments which, by extension, approach a colonialist discourse: the federal government must put Quebec in its proper place as a minority in the Canadian system, and keep an eye on its schemes to protect it against itself.

These ethnicizing remarks activate the elements of the national myth in two ways: first, through the conviction — stemming directly from the structure of the myth (universalism versus ethnocentrism) — that Quebec is an ethnic minority community incapable of defending individual rights or of claiming universalism; and, second, through the strategic use of this belief in order to disqualify and delegitimize, through demonization, Quebec sovereignists’ intentions with regard to language. Without the advantages of federal institutions, which ensure national unity and the respect of rights, this minority group (Quebecers) is considered incapable of governing itself and especially, of protecting and respecting the individual rights characteristic of the liberal tradition. Since, in this view, the sovereignist project is ethnic and racist — because it rejects the so-called universalism of Canadian institutions — its components must necessarily be so too, especially the French language, which francophones want to “impose on immigrants” through their immigration and integration policies. The objective here is to delegitimize Quebec sovereignists through various uses: accusations of racism, threats of reprisals, inferiorization of the French language, and demonization of the political elite.

Diane Francis: Demonization and Conspiracy Theories 

In her books and articles in The Financial Post, The Suburban, and Maclean's, Diane Francis has clearly been employing a double rhetoric: on the one hand, there is the demonization of "secessionists" ("Who will never be reasonable," The Suburban, September 24, 1997), a claim based on the presumption of a "separatist Conspiracy" (see chap. 14 of her book, Fighting for Canada); and, on the other hand, there is the victimization of the anglophone majority group and an accompanying populist rhetoric of legitimate self-defence, based on the presumption that the adversary is racist. The basis and tone of her statements are akin to anti-Semitic discourses of the 1930s and 1940s, which were based on the idea of an international Jewish conspiracy, unbeknownst to the population, and which had to be brought out into the open to reveal the "true nature" of the Jews:
Quebec separatism is not the legitimate struggle for self-determination. It is a racially motivated conspiracy that has run roughshod over human rights, fair play, the Quebec economy, and democracy. The separatists should be treated like the ruthless elite that they are. ... English Canadians still remain in the dark and do not fully understand the extent of separatist wrongdoing. The separatists have cheated. Lied. Hidden facts. Revised history. Disenfranchised thousands of voters. Fraudulently spoiled ballots, then covered up their crimes. They have tampered with the armed forces of the nation. Stripped anglophones and allophones of their civil rights for more than three decades. Purposely driven anglophones out of Quebec. Passed laws that legalized employment discrimination and educational discrimination. Ruined Montreal's economy. Engaged in acts that transgress international treaties Canada has signed, and otherwise embarassed Canada internationally. All of this has cost each and every Canadian dearly as a result of higher interest rates on mortgages, consumer loans, and government borrowings.  
Fighting For Canada, 1996

She urges Canadian citizens to get their municipal councils to adopt resolutions for "remaining in Canada," pushing them "to unite" against the adversary. "They are the original partitionists, not those of us fighting for Canada" (The Suburban, September 24, 1997). The real "secessionists," who are in the minority anyway, are from rural areas: "Montreal, with two-thirds of the province's gross domestic product, voted No and will do so again ... So the next referendum is about whether rural Quebec wants to leave Canada or not." (Ibid.). Francis constantly steers the debate to the issue of the legitimacy of the "struggle against sovereignists" instead of to the "reasons" for Quebec nationalism, or even to the best possible solutions in the search for the common good:
Equally telling in the most recent Quebec poll is that there is only 34 per cent support for secession. The rigorous and emotional defence of this great country has made all the difference. Not concessions and not constitutionalizing. 
The Suburban, September 24, 1997

The “Levine Affair

It was during the “Levine Affair” that the use of demonization reached its peak, and that the analogy between sovereignists and Nazis was the most repetitive in some newspapers.  David Levine, a health administrator who had been a PQ candidate in a 1979 by-election, was appointed CEO of a new Ottawa Hospital in 1998. This appointment enabled racism to reach another level, in discourse as well as in practice: racism became an action and mobilization principle based on anti-Quebec sentiments which were strongly crystallized around David Levine, who, in some media, was presented as a “traitor” and an enemy, and not as a political adversary. This nuance is significant: adversaries maintain a status and equal rights, and are inscribed in a relationship based on negotiation, whereas enemies are those with whom one refuses any type of relationship in order to eliminate, exterminate, or destroy them.

At the beginning of the controversy, some newspapers cautiously displayed prejudices against David Levine. On May 11, Susan Riley, columnist for The Ottawa Citizen, argued:
There may be no legal, practical or even moral justification for revoking David Levine’s appointment as head of the new Ottawa hospital, but it still rankles … why should someone who prefers an independent Quebec to a united Canada choose to work in an alien territory?

But the more the controversy escalated, the more the racist slips were multiplied and reinforced. In his editorial on May 22, John Robson tried to justify “Why Levine has to got to go” (The Ottawa Citizen). First, he maintained that since separatism was a position that offended the community, a former sovereignist could not be the head of an institution serving the community. For Robson, the fact that Levine was a sovereignist (even if he was clearly no longer politically active) placed Levine in the enemy camp: “Not knowing that he is one isn’t the same as knowing that he isn’t one … If you ran for the Nazis in 1979, never repudiated them, and won’t say if you are one now, you are one. Right? “. The correlation with Nazism would appear to be a means for justifying his argumentation, one which is used on several occasions:
One can claim that political beliefs should have nothing to do with one’s job. But if you hire someone with outrageous beliefs, you outrage the community. Obviously. How many Levine supporters think it would be OK if he was a Nazi? … What we do know is that Jean-Louis Roux (who supports Mr. Levine) had to step down as lieutenant-governor of Quebec because he once drew a swastika on his sleeve in a moment of youthful folly … In Quebec, federalism and sovereignty are just two political options. On this side of the Ottawa river it doesn’t work that way. Over here, Liberal, Conservative, Reform and NDP are political options. Separatists want to destroy our home and native land … That’s why, although separatism is clearly not Nazism, it’s equally clearly on the wrong side of the line dividing opinions that don’t outrage the community from ones that do. 
The Ottawa Citizen, May 22

Sovereignists and Nazis are on the same level, a parallel which is made naturally, which is repeated and made commonplace, as if sovereignists had committed the same degree of atrocities as the Nazis, and as if the actions of Nazis could easily be reduced to those of sovereignists. This is a clear case of historical revisionism.

In addition, this parallel affects that half of Quebec’s population that voted for sovereignty during the 1995 referendum. Yet, Robson denies being a racist or a bigot, even if Levine appears, in his discourse, all the more a traitor because he is Jewish, anglophone, bilingual, and sovereignist, all at once: 
How can it be bigotry? Mr. Levine is an anglophone, albeit a bilingual one. Anglophones angry at other anglophones over an anglophone they hired is hardly anti-French prejudice. As for racism, everyone in the story is white. Of course Mr. Levine is of Jewish ancestry. But it isn’t Jean Chretien who mutters darkly about monied ethics. It’s Jacques Parizeau. And we all know he didn’t mean Haitians … No, if racism is a problem, it’s David Levine who associates with bigots, not his critics … Mr. Levine is still in bed with intolerant people. 
The Ottawa Citizen, May 22

Robson supported and justified a rally of approximately 500 people who went to listen to the hospital’s Board of Governors at the Administration Centre on May 19, 1998 to manifest a clearly hate-laden discourse expressive of their fear of sovereignists and their rage:
This is an avowed separatist. We shouldn’t give this person the time of day, let alone a $300,000-a-year job. We should no longer be polite to these bastards. He should go and tell Lucien he needs a job.
The Ottawa Citizen, May 20 

Mike Harris, former Premier of Ontario, fell into step by stating that:
Given his background, if that’s what he still believes in, he wouldn’t have been our first choice … Surely, there is an administrative capability within Ontario, or at least within Canada, or even a non-Canadian who believes in Canada and keeping Canada together. 
The Ottawa Citizen, May 21

But he was not the only politician who opposed Levine’s candidature, or at least who adopted an attitude expressing doubts about Levine:
Ontario MP Garry Guzzo said he feared that Levine would fill the hospital’s administration with sovereignists (The Gazette, May 16); federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Stephane Dion maintained that the manifestations of intolerance experienced by Levine were inevitable as long as the threat of separation existed (The Gazette, May 16); Ontario’s Minister of Health, Elizabeth Witmer, wondered whether the Board of Governors of the Ottawa Hospital should not reconsider its decision, given the impact it would have on the community (The Gazette, May 16); Ottawa’s Mayor, Jim Watson, maintained that Levine’s candidature would affect the hospital’s fundraising. Because of this, Levine “should do the honourable thing and resign … I think if I was David Levine I would resign and put the good of the hospital at the forefront…, to hire someone who is a known separatist doesn’t make a whole lot of sense” (The Ottawa Citizen, May 20, 1998); the Mayor of Gloucester wondered how David Levine, who had been in the service of the Quebec government in New York and a sovereignist, …could keep his personal political beliefs separate from his role as the head of a public institution … His mandate is to run the hospital, [but] human nature says he has beliefs that want to destroy our country and somehow, somewhere it infiltrates into your persona. He even went to New York for the Quebec government. His past background will have a bearing on his job. I think they should rescind his appointment and get somebody else. 
The Ottawa Citizen, May 20, 1998


Parizeau looking remarkably like an untermensch

These incidents show how the two logics of racism most often merge: the logic of inferiorization is only effective when it also operates from an accusatory differentiation aiming to justify “legitimate self-defence” or, eventually, aggression. Racism truly starts when hatred is justified through the denigration of those viewed as enemies. Quebec sovereignists constitute a target of choice because those "trouble-makers are going to destroy this great country". Why? Because they are pushing Quebecers into becoming outlaws of sorts, and do not have the right to separate by using clever ruses and a process of popular consultation which has become illegitimate (deceptive question). But, even though almost all Quebecers have at least one family member who voted “Yes” in the last referendum, if they weren’t victims of a vast conspiracy and led by “emotional” leaders with “unstable” personalities (Bouchard) or “revenge mongers” full of “tricks” (Parizeau), they would be quite placid and everything would fall into place, just like before. 

Sovereignists are on the dark side, and not on the side of “Reason”. David Levine remains a traitor as long as he does not publicly embrace Canadian unity. Isn’t it necessary to "protect" Quebec citizens against the sovereignists — and against themselves — since their dark design is to make Quebec an “ethnocentric francophone enclave”?

What stands out, first and most clearly is the use of universalist arguments (drawn from the Canadian national conception) to delegitimize “the Other”. Secondly, is the element of a contemporary form of “neo-racism”, the discursive racialization of which is implicit and implied, but in which the functions and classical mechanisms of racism remain unchanged: the demonization of the accused. 

The inability of Canadians to comprehend Quebec sovereignists is based on the conviction that Quebecers are a “minority like any other”, and that Canada is “the best country in the world”, universalist, open to differences, bilingual, etc. The conviction among some Anglo-Canadians that unity existed in the past is part of the national myth, and kindles a strong desire to maintain or to re-establish it. 

These incidents, and many more like them, expose the myth of the Canadian nation; the results of the 1995 referendum activated an identity crisis among English Canadians, a breakdown of universalist ideals, and a desire for revenge. 

Based on a text by Maryse Potvin, political scientist and sociologist, professor at the University of Québec in Montréal (UQAM)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Canada's fundamental fraud

The opponents of the political unification of the British colonies of North America wanted an economic development based along the North-South axis rather than along the East-West axis. 

The people never consulted, Quebec representatives divided

150 years ago, on March 10, 1865, an important vote was held at the Parliament of United Canada. The 124 members of parliament voted on a motion giving support to the Quebec Resolutions. Written at the Quebec Conference in the fall of 1864, they requested that the imperial capital proceed with the political unification of the colonies of British North America.

The vote resulted in 91 MPs voting in favor and 33 voting against. In Ontario, 54 MPs voted in favor, while only 8 voted against. In Quebec, 37 MPs voted favorably and 25 voted against. Of these opponents in Quebec, there were Reds, Violets (moderate liberals) and Blues. Ten Reds voted against; eleven of the seventeen Violet members also; and four of the thirty-five Blue MPs. 

Across all colors, the opponents represented ridings connected to US commercial trading routes. They came mainly from the Greater Montreal, Montérégie, Eastern Townships, Bois-Francs and Beauce regions. Many of them came from towns or villages on or near the border. Their constituents wanted an economic development based on north-south rather than east-west trade.

Basically, we can say that the vast majority of MPs from the ridings north of Yamachiche voted for Confederation in 1865. On this national issue, French Quebec was torn in two: Upper Quebec, Northern Yamachiche, was conservative; Lower Quebec was republican.

Opposition movements were organized in three of the founding provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec. Yet the founding fathers refused to consult the people. "At the bottom of the abyss stands democracy" declared George-Étienne Cartier, while for John A. Macdonald, "an election is a civil disorder."

Canadian historiography is little more respectful of the views of the opponents. It sees them as troublemakers, traitors and paranoid. Yet their arguments were sensible. The Quebec opponents made three types of arguments. Politically, they noted a decline in the quality of democracy. Several resolutions were criticized: the abolition of the elective principle for the Upper House; the monarchical character of the regime; weak provincial governments; the right of disavowal granted to the Crown.

Culturally, English and French opponents were divided about the guarantees promised by the resolutions. The English were worried that the new provincial government might interfere with the rights of the Anglo-Protestant minority; the French feared that the federal union might bring about the decline of the French-Canadian nationality. Beyond this disagreement, they agreed on this: the constitutional guarantees were vague. Domestic quarrels, far from fading, would be exacerbated with the birth of the new regime.

Economically, the opponents challenged the need to raise a standing army and build an Inter-colonial Railway, since the military threat was bogus. These public expenditures would create an endless spiral of public debt. And this astronomical public debt would require large increases in taxes and thus impoverish the working classes.

The Grand Trunk

Incidentally, the very birth of the Great Coalition occurred in suspicious circumstances. If George Brown's wife was the "mother of Confederation" as the historian J.M.S. Careless wrote, in the eyes of the opponents of Confederation in Quebec there was also a "Godfather" in the Mafia sense. And it was the Grand Trunk railroad. Thanks to its resources, this Godfather was able to constantly widen the circle of the family, by buying off the most recalcitrant.

This interpretation proposed by opponents is not far-fetched, although it was associated with a "paranoid style of thinking" by historians. The impetus for the Great Coalition had indeed come from London's financial community. They became very nervous, in 1862, with the coming to power of a government led by the Reformer John Sandfield Macdonald and the Violet Louis-Victor Sicotte who wanted to free United Canada from the tutelage of British financiers, advocating an "economic decolonization", i.e. stop stuffing the coffers of the Grand Trunk; reduce borrowing from London; control the public debt and balance the budget.

This strategy alarmed the financiers of London. In response to this political and financial uncertainty, they created a lobby group, the British North America Association (BNAA), which actively supported the political unification of British North America and the construction of a railway between Halifax and Quebec.

Before the coming to power of the Macdonald-Sicotte government, the Colonial Office was indifferent and sometimes hostile to the political unification of the colonies. A shift in colonial policy came after the British North America Association had called for a unification of the colonies. With the return to power of the Conservatives in 1864, the conferences in Charlottetown and Quebec were held.

When the contents of the Quebec Resolutions were known in London, the big British financiers reacted positively. The reaction of the City was crucial for the continuation of the project. If the financiers had been hostile, it would have been abandoned, as its implementation depended on financial guarantees.

The British financiers hoped that the unification project would appease the democratic tensions expressed in the colonial parliaments. They advocated the adoption of more stringent criteria to qualify to vote but the founding fathers adopted another way by proposing a highly centralized federal union, important decisions would be pushed to a more remote level of government, the federal level.

The City had initially expressed disappointment on learning of the proposed continuation of the provincial parliaments. But it was reassured upon learning of the division of powers proposed by the Quebec resolutions. It was now clear that the provinces would be little more than vainglorious municipalities, subject to the will of a powerful central government.

By Stéphane Kelly, Sociologist, professor at the Saint-Jerome CEGEP

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The PKP enigma in 11 points

"What do you think about Péladeau? "I think this question has been asked to me dozens and dozens of times in the past year. For some he's the great Sovereigntist Messiah with the stature of a head of state who will lead Quebec to independence, fist in the air. For others, he's the demon boss-man, the anti-union dictator in the pay of the 1%, the Berlusconi of Quebec.

He is neither the Messiah nor the devil.

I propose here to look at the PKP enigma in a few points, which are the questions that come up most often when people speak to me about the MNA of St-Jérôme and of the PQ leadership race.

1- The pro big oil candidate, who's in favor of the Energy East pipeline

"This Sunday, Mr.Péladeau unveiled his platform on the subject of energy in which he foresees Quebec's energy independence from oil by 2050. The candidate does not exclude the possibility of extracting the oil from Anticosti island or the oil off the shores of the Madeleine Islands. He's promising to consult the population in order to determine if this should or should not be used as part of Quebec's oil exit strategy. Mr.Péladeau spoke of Norway, where oil royalties have helped to establish a fund of $880 billion. Mr.Péladeau asserted, however, that the issues of environmental protection and social acceptability shall be taken into account when it's time to decide whether to go ahead with it. Still, Mr.Péladeau stressed the benefits of oil exploitation. "I consider it a major asset. It's a the major asset for Quebec sovereignty and we can't simply discard its enormous potential to make Québec a rich and prosperous country. "- Le Devoir, March 29, 2015

He doesn't seem to have sided with the TransCanada pipeline, he said that Quebecers should be consulted. But anyway, this is, for now, still a federal jurisdiction. So long as Quebec is stuck in the Canadian federation, it doesn't really need to be consulted. In any case, wanting to get out of oil is fine but it won't happen in a single day. In an independent Quebec, the production of oil could be considered, preferably in the context of nationalization or at least with the negotiation of generous royalties. So these revenues could then be used by the Quebec government to finance its energy transition towards clean energy and to reduce its dependence on oil. If we look at PKP's energy policy, this is pretty much what he is proposing with the example of the Norwegian Sovereign Fund, with his proposal about the  electrification of transportation, with his energy efficiency plan and his plan for the exit from oil:

"To achieve our energy transition, it is also important to reduce our oil consumption by all possible means. We need to consume less oil and consume our own energy when substitutes are possible. Everyone agrees that the oil produced in Western Canada is among the most polluting in the world and it  would be more  advantageous to rely on other sources  which would benefit Quebecers. Drawing on the best international practices, we want to develop an oil exit plan that would include a 40% reduction target in the transportation sector by 2030."

2- Tax Evasion

In his economic platform, Péladeau has seen fit to mention a plan to fight tax evasion. Meanwhile, Alain Deneault raised some important questions: "The conversion of Mr. Péladeau is nothing banal and raises legitimate questions. For example, Quebecor World had once created an entity called "Quebecor World Centro America SA" Panama, an opaque tax haven? " On this point, it must be said that some countries require the creation and registration of companies on their territory when it comes to doing business. Quebecor World, which in 2003 had just concluded a contract to print Reader's Digest Panama created Quebecor World Centro America S.A. in Panama. There's still the question of Delaware, where Quebecor defended wanting to evade its tax obligations, but Alain Deneault, who wrote the book "Offshore" about tax havens, is skeptical. It's likely that this story will be continued.

3- Lockouts

Some say that because of this past, PKP will have trouble getting the support of the unions. This is a legitimate concern. Yet what must be understood is that the greatest enemy of unionism is the federal government. Just look at Bills C-4, C-377 and C-525, as well as the way the federal government responded to the labor conflicts at Air Canada and Canadian Pacific. This is probably what motivated trade unionists to support Pierre Karl.

4- He doesn't answer questions and his plan for independence is unclear

This is not something that worries me and I will explain why in point 11. Anyway, since Parizeau left the PQ, we have seen some fine speakers with nice plans...on paper. Like for example, the popular initiative referendum with the 850,000 signatures threshold plan proposed by Bernard Drainville in 2012, which was never really implemented. The kind of plan that Alexandre Cloutier seems to be proposing but would, this time, require one million signatures.

5- His media

Many people wonder if PKP, who was the CEO and remains the owner of one of the largest media companies in Quebec, will benefit from a Quebecor Media bias. I see no evidence that this would be the case. Let's not forget that at the Journal de Montreal and the Journal de Québec, there are a lot of federalists columnists who take pleasure in denigrating the independence movement. Of course, the Journal de Montreal and the Journal de Québec can claim to be representing a plurality of views, but I am skeptical that these papers would help Pierre Karl in an election or a possible referendum. Never mind the airtime that TVA grants to Jean Lapierre during election campaigns. Add to that Sun News, which Quebecor recently got rid of... It did give me a good laugh to see the Sun News journalists have to defend themselves for working for a "separatist" after PKP made the jump to the PQ.

6- His lack of experience in politics

We often hear that after Pierre Karl says something, he often has to explain his comments or clarify his position. This happens precisely because he lacks experience and he has not yet mastered the famous vacuousness of political speech. In a sense, it can harm him because today more than ever the media can create a tempest in a teacup from a trivial statement. On the other hand, his straight talk, which can sometimes create the impression that he made a gaff, could probably help him. Remember that Jean Chrétien, who could outdo anyone in terms of gaffs, was three times prime minister of Canada.

Parenthesis: take the controversial statement of PKP on immigration. The statement is rather awkward and there is a chance that, come election time, they will try to corner him with it, just like Parizeau's statement, which is still used by federalists as a scarecrow, but it puts the finger on something real. PKP eventually retracted it, but it is in the details of Maka Kotto's comments that we find an interesting element: "There is a system that ensures you when you come from abroad, all the symbols that are forced upon you inculcate into you, subliminally I would say, a notion of belonging to Canada, not Quebec."

Two other things: Immigration is still a taboo subject here, everyone walks on eggshells for fear of being called a racist or of offending someone, and because of this we can never have a real debate of any kind on the subject. Furthermore, the independence movement should not single out the immigrants as the sole source of its misfortune. Instead of pointing the finger at immigrants and saying "immigrants vote no," the PQ must initiate a genuine dialogue with the various cultural communities and must convince them of the viability of Quebec independence and the contributions each of these communities can make.

Personally, I've been having this dialogue for years. It works when you take the time to discuss, ask questions and explain. I went to high school in St-Michel, so I rubbed shoulders with Quebecers of all origins. I have friends from Mali, Algeria, Morocco, Haiti, Argentina, France, Belgium, Chile, Vietnam, etc. And contrary to what we are led to believe, the independence option is relatively alive among the children of Bill 101, the sons and daughters of immigrants. End of parenthesis.

7- Is the PQ the right vehicle?

On this point, I tend to agree with the analysis of Jacques Parizeau, for several reasons. The secularism charter was a serious strategic error on the part of the Parti Quebecois and it will continue to feel the repercussions over it for a while. While human beings have been killing one another on religious grounds for a long time, the PQ decided to make religion an election issue. On the PQ and what it has become, I had questioned Jean-François Lisée at the time. I still think the same way. And that was not counting the endless debate on secularism and the electoral drubbing last year. The Parti Quebecois is not a very popular party among young people and among immigrants. The independence option is currently more popular than the party. There is certainly a lot of work to do on this front. As for those who are serious about independence, they no longer believe the empty promises of this party. How could anyone blame them. Personally, I'm sick of hearing the interchangeable heads of the PQ proclaiming loudly that they will do everything in their power to bring about the independence of Quebec once a year at the party convention. Then, 2 or 3 YouTube videos, a powerpoint, a hollow formula like "popular initiative referendum", the "tool box" or a "White Paper on sovereignty" and when election time comes around, they avoid the issue. So on this point, I'll wait and see.

8- The economy

PKP's economic prestige and his ambitious economic plan will surely allow him to get votes from the CAQ and give him a chance of convincing those who believe that a sovereign Quebec would not be economically viable. It could also help him convince people from the business world as well. In his platform, there are two points that I find particularly interesting, and that's not counting his regional development plan and his manufacturing policy. First, the strategy of buying locally, which he calls the concept of "préférence québécoise". Then his desire to create a Quebec Institute of Applied Research on independence. This institute will "analyze the economic dimensions of the national independence project".

9- Federal control over vital sectors

I must say that I'm glad to finally hear someone make this point. Shipping, rail, air transport, the CRTC, etc. Economically speaking, the Quebec Institute of Applied Research on independence should demonstrate how these "federal jurisdictions slow or disadvantage Quebec." Furthermore, I would also suggest that this Institute focus on the ideological control of the federal government on thought and culture through what Heritage Canada funds; Telefilm Canada, the CRTC, the Canada Council, Museums and Parks Canada, CBC Radio and Television, the NFB, in addition to some other areas such as university research or amateur sport.

10- The glamour

This is obviously not something that reaches me personally but it's still significant that PKP and Julie Snyder form a glamorous couple. Besides, Julie Snyder is a brilliant woman, with an ability to rally people to her. I see her political involvement in a favorable light. And if in addition, it can attract the sympathy of the people who watch La Voix or Star Académie, and convinces them to vote "Yes", then I'm all for it.

11- Has Pierre Karl Peladeau really entered politics for Quebec independence?

This is the crucial question. First, it must be said that never before has a businessman of his importance taken a stand in this way. The Canadian establishment will never forgive him for it. Yes, in Quebec Quebecor is big, but if you look at the largest companies in Canada, Quebecor Media ranks 94th, and Quebecor Inc. ranks at 96th place. Its media competitors, that is to say Power Corporation, Bell and Rogers, rank respectively in the 3rd, 17th and 33rd places.

In addition, by placing his company in a blind trust he is placing himself in a very risky position. Not only will the Canadian establishment do everything, including all of the low blows unimaginable to weaken his business, he will be a victim of media persecution by the competitors especially at election time. When we look at the recent history of Quebec, particularly in regard to the political struggle against the independence of Quebec, the federal government and the Canadian establishment spared no means to get their way. The Brinks job, Operation Ham, the Samson Case, and the underhanded methods used during the 1995 referendum (see for example the book by Robin Philpot "Le Référendum volé").

Why take that risk? I believe Pierre Karl knows what he is exposing himself to and how it exposes the company he inherited from his father. Being aware of these risks, he must succeed in a certain sense. It's all or nothing, really. He's taking a calculated risk because, firstly he must really want Quebec to achieve its independence and, I believe, he also wants to make history. He wants to be the one who will create this country. He wants to be what René Lévesque and Jacques Parizeau could not be. And he is not afraid. This, I believe, can only do good to the PQ of recent years.

I have often complained about people who refuse to take a stand, Pierre Karl has, he is putting his company at risk and doing it fearlessly. I won't spit on that. So, I choose to support him. There, it's said. However, in regards to the PQ as a whole, I still remain skeptical. I'll wait and see how things change. Substance. Audacity. Vision...

Well, there it is. It's a decision long reflected on. A rational and thoughtful decision. And for those who will to see in this support an inconsistency with my usual positions, I say this: I'm still leftist, I'm the same dirty red square leftist who mourned Hugo Chavez, who was in the streets in 2012, the same leftist who supports the striking students and the same one who writes columns on the growing the police state we live in. But I'm an independentist first. I, therefore, only see consistency in supporting PKP. I do not accept any nonsense under the pretext that it is leftist, just as I do not reject any idea on the grounds that it is from the right. I analyze and evaluate ideas according to my first objective; the independence of Quebec. And I recognize, more than ever, the urgency. We must exit Canada quickly. Because meanwhile, a police state is being built up around us and our social gains are being eroded. La Caisse de dépôt is being hijacked and our natural resources are slowly being plundered for a song and without any long term vision. Quietly our Crown corporations such as Hydro-Québec and the SAQ will be privatized...

Quebec independence is not an end. It's a start. It is the first step towards liberty.

"It is very difficult to start a revolution. It is even more difficult to continue it. The most difficult of all is to win it. And it is only there that the real difficulties begin"- Larbi Ben M'hidi from the film The Battle of Algiers

By Jules Falardeau, film and documentary director, April 22, 2015