Building bridges

The recent controversy surrounding the contribution by Anglo musicians to an alternative Saint-Jean concert in Montréal gave added meaning to a fairly recent word, "blueneck". Much like rednecks for anything but WASP, bluenecks are obtuse individuals who display intolerance to all things but French, English in particular.

Pierre Curzi, PQ critic for culture, communications and language, took a stance in favor of the musicians. He denounced the situation stating that an inclusive Québec must welcome Anglophones wishing to participate in the celebrations. I agree with him, but the Parti Québécois could've taken a stronger stance by making an official statement. How could it be any other way? Can a nation really be built while alienating one of its important communities?

The sovereigntists lost the 1980 referendum. In response, Canada patriated the constitution without Québec's consent in 1982. Canadian politics have been plagued by this mishap ever since. Even if the numbers are there, even if it's mathematically possible for Francophones to achieve sovereignty alone, like Parizeau suggested in 1995, is that the kind of mess the province wants to get into? Slice it anyway you want. Québec's sovereignty is out of reach without a significant contribution from Anglos and cultural communities.

In the meantime, federalism is soul searching. A recent Globe and Mail report, titled "Flexing his muscles", about Jean Charest's latest international escapade stated that Québec's Premier praised our country as the most decentralized federation in the world. "That is so true that Quebec has more powers than some sovereign or supposedly sovereign countries," he told reporters in Munich. One has to wonder what federalists are telling the Québécois. Is that the sole advantage of remaining in Canada?... more autonomy? Our country has a chronic inability to passionately promote itself (see Celebrating Canada).

Add the fact that national media have a limited understanding of the sovereignty movement (see National media suffice) and you get fertile ground for demagoguery. Intentionally or not, a demonstration of intolerance by individuals will often be projected onto the whole movement. Federalism hasn't much substance passion wise and federalists are exploiting this void using anecdotes (see Québec's ethnocentric nationalism - Part 2).

If the sovereignty movement wants to go anywhere, it has to distance itself from bluenecks. It has to occupy more space with its English communications. It can't rely on English media for even impartial publicity.

Anglophones who decided to remain in the province since 1976 are making a statement; they live in a distinct society that they willingly chose. I remember being impressed by the reaction of an Anglo crowd to a speech by André Boisclair at the end of which he reached out his hand. The fruit is ripe for building bridges.

Sovereigntists will argue that such a move would costs support within their own ranks. I submit that inclusive actions consistent with inclusive words would more than compensate by attracting additional support from both Francophones and non-Francophones.

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