Four years ago I wrote about the election that brought François Legault to power and commented that while separatism was no longer on the ballot anywhere (at least anywhere credible), it was nevertheless right there under the surface.
“Yes,” I said back then, “the separatist parties tanked. But here’s the thing: Separatism was never about separation. It was always about identity. And that issue never dies.”
Since then we’ve been blessed, as it were, with the deeply flawed Bill 21 (secularism is good, forbidding teachers from wearing hijabs is terrible), Bill 96 making English a dirty language (I paraphrase, but only a little) and pretty gross and awful comments about immigrants. No, not from this Trump wannabe. From the minister of immigration himself, a Trois-Rivières fellow named Jean Boulet.
“Eighty per cent of immigrants go to Montreal, don’t work, don’t speak French, and don’t adhere to the values of Quebec,” he said. “The key is regionalization and francization.”
You’d think this kind of transparently idiotic bullshit (I’m trying to be nice) would be roundly denounced. You’d think wrong. He’s still running and polls suggests he’ll keep his job. He later tweeted that he’d expressed his thoughts badly and sought forgiveness for that as though lack of clarity was the problem.
I’m so tired.
There is so much good in Quebec society, very much including its idiosyncratic culture and insistence on maintaining its own version of the French language. It’s loud and boisterous and baveux and in-your-face. It has a bit of an intolerant edge in some corners that’s cringey and not in a good way. But it is itself, for better or worse.
Happy election day, Quebec.