I haven’t lived in Canada in 33 years, and I keep thinking of it as a bastion of justice and egalitarianism, where civil rights are sacrosanct, prejudice is a thing of the past and violence is abhorred. I keep forgetting about Quebec.
I forget that when my brother Bill was in the Canadian Black Watch regiment, they were assigned to keep the peace in Quebec because separatists were setting off bombs.
Although my late stepfather was born in Quebec City, I don’t hear much about Quebec. But I believe the Separatist party is still popular. And I wonder why the province doesn’t just go ahead and call itself a separate country. I can’t see why the rest of Canada would miss them.
It’s a big province and it has vast natural resources. Its population is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and the Quebecois are famous for having a lot of children. The province certainly has enough space, resources and people to manage on its own.
It certainly doesn’t seem like a part of Canada, as far as I am concerned. And it’s not just because they speak French and often get mad at visitors who don’t speak French, too.
The main difference between Canadians and Quebecois is their attitude.
In Ontario, where I lived for two decades, the people are laid back, fair minded and mostly progressive. From what I know of Quebec, there’s still a legacy of class prejudice and self-deluded snobbery that they inherited from their French ancestors . Furthermore, a lot of native Quebecois seem to have a chip on their shoulder; they sometimes get quite hostile for no reason I can see.
And now I’m learning of a fascist undercurrent that I’ve never encountered in the rest of Canada.
In an analysis in Truthout today, Elizabeth Leier reports that the Quebec government has suspended civil liberties and is violently suppressing students who are demonstrating against college tuition increases. Here’s how she describes the jackboot brutality employed by provincial authorities:
Indeed, police brutality has been endemic to this conflict. There have so far been several important injuries (more than 65 serious injuries, LaPresse, May 8), including two young men who each lost an eye, broken limbs, a broken jaw, skull fractures and countless illegitimate arrests. This abuse of power has been so blatant that on May 15, Amnesty International announced it was demanding an inquiry into the events and released a communiqué denouncing the police practices. Among other events, those of April 19 in Gatineau, where 148 protesters were arrested and held in city buses; tightly handcuffed; refused access to food, water and toilets for over seven hours. Some protesters’ hands swelled and turned purple from the cuffs, which police refused to cut.
I can’t imagine anything like that happening in Ontario. My son, my brother, my sister and numerous other family members live in Ontario, and the Ontarians I know are usually reasonable and civilized.
According to the Truthout piece, Quebec Premier Jean Charest belongs to the Liberal Party, a political movement that I associate with decency and justice (it was Pierre Trudeau’s party!). In fact, there is no national party in Canada that would condone such barbaric behavior.
I wonder how the national party tolerates such abominable actions by a provincial branch.
Of course, as I said, I haven’t lived in Canada for a long time. The Canada I remember may no longer exist. This is a changing world, and it is not changing for the better.