Sovereigntist tokenism

Maintaining a balance between the integration of immigrants and welcoming different cultures is a constant challenge for any society struggling with its demographic decline. Political parties of all stripes recognize the value of having immigrants among their ranks. Opponents sometimes question the good faith of their political adversaries when they succeed in recruiting candidates of foreign origins for office. Opponents sometimes accuse their political adversaries of tokenism, the inclusion of members of a minority group to create a false appearance of inclusive practices.

Achieving tokenism obviously calls for members of minority groups to be willing to take part of it, individuals who either don't have much of an opinion, who lack wits or who are simply dishonest. It also requires some sort of winning recipe that allows political parties to have these individuals elected. And finally, it needs the population to fall for it.

Societies with generally low levels of education and in which information to the public is controlled may be fertile ground for tokenism, but Canadians are among the privileged few when it comes to access and quality of education and information. Can Canadians be massively fooled by token characters with reduced capacity?... seriously? With our political system, an accusation of tokenism mostly sounds like an insult to the voters and the candidate they've elected.

When it comes to recruiting candidates of foreign origins, the sovereignty movement faces a challenge. Parizeau's faux pas in 1995 (see Parizeau is racist) has been cultivated as one of many demonstrations of intolerance (see Québec's ethnocentric nationalism - Part 2). Many Canadians are under the impression that the sovereignty movement doesn't accept anything but old-stock Québécois. In reality, it greets people of all origins and backgrounds.

Bernard Cleary (of Aboriginal descent), Marie Malavoy (born in Germany), Alexis Wawanoloath (of Aboriginal descent), Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac (born in Vietnam), 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 most outspoken individuals in this select club (Maria Mourani, Joseph Facal, Vivian Barbot and Maka Kotto, for example) can hardly be mistaken for token characters with reduced capacity.

Granted, the sovereignty movement will never appeal to immigrants at levels comparable to those found among old-stock Québécois. Several factors may explain this. Some of these new-stock Québécois are restricted to national media to forge their initial political opinions on the subject; most of these media lack the diversity of opinion available in Québec (see National media suffice). But mostly, many of these new-stock Québécois came to Canada fleeing unstable political states and simply couldn't care less for the confusion that may accompany Québec's transition to sovereignty.

Be they sitting in the House of Commons or driving a cab, members of a minority group who embrace the sovereignty movement have overcome several hurdles. I believe people should try listening to what they have to say before dismissing their contribution as tokenism.

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