Quebec’s Blue Christmas 2013 .. (or Canada’s Blue Christmas in Quebec)?

Dec 17th, 2013 | By | Category: In Brief

PQ leader Pauline Marois cheers along with supporters while at a brew pub Tuesday, August 21, 2012 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS.)

It may be a harbinger of things to come in Canada that the last few weeks of 2013 are showing fresh signs of creative motion in la belle province. Personally I hope this proves correct.

I grew up in the Greater Toronto Area (and its somewhat still wider region) in the 1950s and 1960s. And  I remember when Quebec was more reported-on in our English-language news in the rest of Canada than it is today. In my youth I concluded that, whatever else, Quebec was something which made Canada interesting.

I have subsequently become recurrently annoyed with Quebec, like almost everyone else in the rest of Canada. Yet it still seems to me that Canada is a more interesting place when there is more communication between Quebec and the rest of the country than there has been for some time now. Similarly, it is no doubt unfair to say that Canada works best when the prime minister comes from Quebec. But it still sometimes seems to me that this may sometimes be true. (And hello both Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau — even if the latter is also in some important enough senses from his mother’s beautiful BC.)

So … I am not unhappy to hear about various new stirrings (well four to be exact) east of the Ottawa River (and even some related developments in Alberta — oil-and-gas-driven energizer of today’s Toronto Stock Exchange and the English Canadian mirror image of Quebec, on some accounts at least):

(1) The Quebecois nation in a united Canada. A new CROP poll in Quebec “shows growing support for Parti Quebecois” and “more support for sovereignty than is usual.” The numbers here are far from dramatic. But they have been enough to prompt such headlines as “PQ touts Quebec’s ‘decanadianization,’ citing new poll’s findings,” and “’Quebec is already independent in its mind,’ PQ minister says.”

Andy Radia from Vancouver has a point here :“the rest of Canada might want to think the sovereignty debate is dead, but as long as the PQ is in power, it’s really not.” At the same time, the rest of Canada itself arguably agreed that “Quebec is already independent in its mind” back in late November 2006, when “the Canadian House of Commons voted 265-16 in favour of the resolution ‘That this House recognizes that the Québécois are a nation within a united Canada.’”

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Bernard Landry et sa femme Chantal Renaud : La grande marche vers l'indépendance du QUÉBEC — Montréal, mai 2009.

(2) La «francophobie» dénoncée. In the wake of what more than a few in French-speaking Quebec regard as mean-spirited and malevolent criticism of the PQ government’s proposed Charter of Values (inside and outside Quebec), the  Société St-Jean-Baptiste has assembled “100 prominent Quebec figures, including former premier Bernard Landry … to launch an advertising campaign to expose and denounce what they call the unfair portrayal of francophones and Quebec in anglophone and certain francophone media.”

There is much that is controversial here, no doubt. (And see the quite restrained report in Le Devoir : “La «francophobie» dénoncée.”) But for examples of what the SSJB apparently has in mind, see also “Toronto game company pokes fun at Quebec’s Charter of Values” and “Smartphone game pokes fun at Quebec’s secular charter.”

(3) Elvis and the Detroit Red Wings in Quebec City. Wild thoughts about some overwhelming majority of Quebecers mobilizing on the PQ sovereigntist side in any near future still ought to be moderated by such headlines as : “Partnership between Charlottetown and Quebec City produces major cultural exchange projects for 2014 celebrations” ; and “David Thibault, Quebec teen Elvis, nails Blue Christmas …  Elvis impersonator’s performance on Quebec City station CKOI floors listeners.”

(And then there is “Bloc québécois – Daniel Paillé démissionne pour des raisons de santé” ; and “Daniel Paille’s departure another sign of tough times for Bloc Quebecois.” It’s worth listening as well to 16-year-old David Thibault’s version of Elvis’s Blue Christmas — both because he offers a brilliant impersonation of The King, and for the Quebec City francophone radio personality in a Detroit Red Wings T shirt, offering moral support and recurrent bravos.)

(4) Not Alberta Bound ???? Finally, the headline “Alberta to Quebecers: Why aren’t you coming to work here?,” which I stumbled across just this past December 6, prompted me to explore related news items, all the way back to October 2007.

Two Canadian premiers who don’t seem unhappy : Alberta ‘s Alison Redford (l) and Quebec’s Pauline Marois, December 2012.

There I landed on a Maclean’s article called “Bienvenue en Alberta … Quebecers, in record numbers, head out to Wild Rose country.” Yet when you start off with close to zero, subsequent numbers do not have to be very large to constitute a “record.”

Similarly, if all that many Quebecers have been rushing to the Wild Rose country since 2007 (as various related anglophone headlines imply — in 2012, 2013, 2013, and 2013, eg), it is not easy to understand why the Alberta government today has “posted a note on its website … explaining that it is trying to figure out why Quebecers rarely apply for work in the province … most of the workers who come to Alberta from outside the province are from the Atlantic provinces.”

Montreal demonstration in late 1976 — when the Parti Quebecois under Rene Levesque was first elected as the provincial government of Quebec.

If you spend even just a little time in Quebec, it shouldn’t take anything like rocket science to understand why most Quebecers rarely apply for work in Alberta. At some point, everywhere in the rest of Canada, we will start to recognize that it is reasonable enough for people born into a majority French-speaking society to want to continue living in a majority French-speaking society. And no matter how much economic opportunity Alberta may offer — or how friendly a welcome it or any other part of Canada outside Quebec offers to Quebecers — it or they will never be a majority French-speaking society. (Even in the old Acadian refuge of officially bilingual New Brunswick!)   When we in the rest of Canada finally do begin to recognize all this,  more clearly than now, Andy Radia’s sovereignty debate probably will be dead forever.

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