Barbara Kay: Quebec’s devotion to anglos ends at their language
National Post - Monday February 11th, 2013
Jean-François Lisée, the Parti Québécois minister tasked with improving his government’s relations with English-speaking Quebecers, spoke Sunday at a closed-session meeting of PQ delegates in Drummondville.
He explained to his colleagues that there is a difference between allophone immigrants, who are expected to “integrate with the francophones” and anglo-Quebecers, “whom we hope to preserve for generations to come.”
(An interesting choice of words. As though the anglo community was a bottle of sauerkraut.) It gets better. “English is an issue,” Lisée said, “but anglo-Quebecers are not an issue.” And, Lisée was happy to report, “They applauded. No one booed.”
Oh, really? It’s only our language that is “the issue,” but you love us? Of course his colleagues applauded. They were applauding Lisée’s legerdemain with language. They were applauding an old trick of political history in democracies, where tribalists in power have to pretend that everyone is equal, and it takes ingenuity to create a two-tier citizenship. The trick is to blame an abstract “problem,” rather than the human beings who are the carriers, so to speak, of the problem. The trick has worked in the past. A few examples:
• In extending Jews citizenship at the beginning of the 19th century, France made it clear that it wasn’t Jews they took exception to. It was just their…Judaism. They made it clear that if Jews wanted to practice Judaism, it had better be out of sight. Jews, so grateful to be offered citizenship, happily complied. Then along came a certain artillery officer named Alfred Dreyfus. The Dreyfus affair made it clear that it didn’t matter how hidden a Jew’s Judaism was, it was the Jew the French didn’t like after all. And then there was Vichy.
• Decades ago, the Canadian government told aboriginals they had nothing against aboriginals per se, it was just their…language and, you know, culture. Not them. Along came the residential schools and I needn’t say more about that fiasco. Is there a single aboriginal in this country who feels “liked” by the government that sought to suppress his most defining features?
This Jean-François Lisée is really a piece of work, as the anglo idiom has it. He is his “bad-cop” government’s “good cop.” It’s Lisée who expresses commiseration for the poor anglo shmuck while the government continually tightens the noose on the use of English anywhere in Montreal.
As we know from countless films and TV shows, it’s the good cop’s job to make the perp an accomplice in his own fate, often an unjust one.
So the good cop never lays a hand on the guy. On the contrary, he purrs sympathetic bromides about sharing the victim’s pain, and sometimes even makes promises the more powerful bad cop has no intention of fulfilling, as Lisée has now done several times, notably regarding Bill 14, which is annulling the bilingual status of traditionally bicultural towns in direct opposition to his stated assurances otherwise.
The good cop is earnest, rational, sincere. He extends the hand of hope. His pitch is appealing to someone who is frightened, isolated, undefended by those who should be his advocates and uncertain of his rights, all descriptors that pertain to the anglo community today. Giving up his rights seems a small price to pay to stop the pain.
Good cop murmurs: “If you will only cooperate with us and suppress or at least hide from view this one retrograde little habit of yours which is a social irritant to the majority – come my friend, admit it, you know it – then my sadly brutish and impulsive colleague here will stop the beating!” Here the good cop beams encouragingly. From behind the one-way mirror, applause for his performance can be heard.