The Quebec election campaign, at about its halfway point, has brought out the xenophobic nature of at least some Quebeckers.
The most prominent example is Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois. According to the polls, she has the best chance of becoming premier. She has some provocative ideas about Quebec and its future.
Her musings during the campaign include the following:
– Quebec should prohibit anyone from running for office at the local and provincial level, if they do not pass a French proficency test;
– Citizens would be prevented from displaying religious symbols, other than the crucifix, which according to her is a cultural, not a religious symbol;
– Young people from a French-speaking background who have finished high school would not be allowed to attend English-language CEGEPS (community colleges);
– A charter of secularism would be put into place; and
– A referendum on separating from Canada would be held if just 15 per cent of the population signed a petition calling for one.
While she has backtracked on some of these statements, keep in mind she’s in the midst of an election campaign.
Marois is trying mightily to inflame language fears among nationalist Quebeckers. She is trying to convince them that the French language is under immediate assault. Only by circling the wagons, and doing all government can to prevent people from speaking other languages, can it be preserved, or so she claims.
Her concern for the future of French has some validity. Quebec is the only large French-speaking area in North America. However, given that millions of people there speak French as their first language, it is hardly at death’s door.
Using religious and racial phobias to try and gather enough votes in an election is deeply disturbing. It is particularly insulting, coming from a party that claims to be open-minded and tolerant. It is a far cry from the days of PQ party icon Rene Levesque.
If the PQ wins, its stated goal is to have a referendum on separation from Canada as soon as possible. That is understandable. Let Quebeckers choose to leave Canada if they wish.
However, such xenophobic utterances do not bode well for Quebec’s future, as part of Canada or as an independent country.