Québec's ethnocentric nationalism

For many observers, Québec's nationalism has been plagued with demonstrations of racism and resentment. For the majority of Québécois, such occurrences are the product of isolated factions. For the majority of Québécois, such occurrences simply demonstrate that no single group has exclusivity over narrow-minded opinions. The fact that Québec nationalism finds its root in the supremacist theories of Chanoine Lionel-Groulx has no bond on today's general opinion. These theories aren't common knowledge and, even if they were, there's no reason for any Québécois to feel obliged to them. In a similar fashion, most Canadians don't feel obliged to Mackenzie King's anti-Semite immigration policies either.

Québec's nationalism can be looked at from many angles, but language and culture particularly stand out. French in the Americas (like English, Spanish or Portuguese) has given birth over the centuries to a specific culture that's very much different from its European origins. Unlike the other three main languages however, French in Canada has a minority position in an English dominated legislature, a language spoken by almost 332 million people in North America.

There's obviously no question about Canada's legislative independence. But for the majority of Québécois, Canadian cultural autonomy is hesitant. Its uniqueness is a variation of a greater North American whole. It's a shade among others, like the difference between the East and the West coasts. The matter has been the topic of many books, but it's not easy to single out in a few words.

The bulk of Québécois (federalists and sovereigntists alike) agrees that a second language is an asset that should be cherished by any country. That this second language has international influence makes it all the more advantageous. That the future of this second language is in many ways under the helm of an English dominated legislature is somewhat disconcerting. Perceived lack of interest from Ottawa is fertile ground for those who value cultural diversity. There lays the essence of Québec's nationalism today, as strong as the indifference it reacts to.

There isn't much of a racial dynamic to it. If there were, it would filter through the province's politics. In the 2008 provincial election, the ADQ flirted with the idea of reducing immigration objectives; how this idea contributed to their demise would be the topic of an interesting debate. PQ immigration policies are similar to the Liberals'; there haven't been major shifts from one government to the other since 1976. Language aside, Québec's immigration policies don't differ much from those of any Western nation in search of a solution to its demographic decline.

Even if the sovereignty movement is less appealing to immigrants, it greets people of all origins and backgrounds. Bernard Cleary (of Aboriginal descent), Marie Malavoy (born in Germany), Alexis Wawanoloath (of Aboriginal descent), Maria Mourani (of Lebanese origin), Joseph Facal (born in Uruguay), Vivian Barbot (born in Haiti) and Maka Kotto (born in Cameroun) have all been elected as Parti Québécois MNAs or Bloc MPs. The common thread between these individuals is the simple belief that cultural diversity in North America is something desirable.

In a very egotistical way, Québec's nationalism takes advantage of its provincial legislative platform to pressure the federal government and off-balance its predominantly English perspective. This is profoundly unfair to Francophones in other provinces, but what other leverage is left to those who can't find an appropriate response to claims they feel are legitimate?

Nowadays, the vision of an intolerant ethnocentric nationalism is almost exclusively fostered by English federalist circles to demonize the sovereignty movement; they have succeeded rather well in focusing the debate on anecdotal incidents. Unfortunately, it betrays the weakness of their argumentation.

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