The conservative drift of Quebec nationalism

“What’s going on in Quebec ?!»

Posted at 6:00 am

I came to interview the professor at this Scottish university, but he was the first to ask.

His name is James Kennedy and he teaches political science at the University of Edinburgh. We were in the middle of a referendum campaign on Scottish independence in 2014, and the scholar was scratching his head while reading the news from Quebec.

The man is an expert on nationalism. He did his doctoral thesis in Montreal, at McGill, in the midst of the 1995 referendum campaign.

His thesis consists in saying that contemporary nationalism in Quebec and that in Scotland are distinguished by their progressivism from traditional nationalist movements almost anywhere in the world. Both René Lévesque’s Parti Québécois (PQ) and the Scottish National Party (SNP) are deeply entrenched in Anglo-Saxon liberalism, and distance themselves from ethnic nationalism.

But on that day in September 2014, the teacher no longer recognized the PQ he was studying. What is this “Charter of Values”? he will ask me.

As a good academic, he did not want to comment remotely on the transfer of this identity of the new PQ, which Parizeau, Bouchard and others regret. But it seems that his scientific model has taken over the field …

The very idea of ​​the “nation” of Quebec has been conservative and identity -based in the last generation. In a documentary1 to be broadcast on Radio-Canada on Saturday night, Francine Pelletier recounts the trend of what was clearly for her a slow ethnocentric skid-it was for me, at least, as for many to the people he interviewed.

A major player in intellectual change in the dominant nationalist discourse is the sociologist Jacques Beauchemin, who has been less seen in the spotlight in recent years. She was a spokesperson for Pauline Marois, in addition to being the supervisor of Mathieu Bock-Côté’s thesis.

According to Beauchemin, after two referendum failures (1980 and 1995) and after Jacques Parizeau’s speech of defeat opposing the “money and ethnic vote”, Quebec nationalists developed a kind of “bad conscience. all Francophones suddenly found themselves.

Beauchemin, on the contrary, advocated a “reorganization”, a return to a French -Canadian stance that “we” are at the heart of the Parti Québécois discourse – which, for him, is not against “others”. , but no longer afraid to assert himself as such.

Pauline Marois was attracted to the idea, and Beauchemin was the author of an important speech by the first female prime minister. For the intellectual, it is a question of understanding Quebec’s “long history,” including aspects considered shameful by the progressive environment since the Quiet Revolution. In particular the role of the Church, which is denied without nuance, but inseparable from national “salvation”.

This “reorganization” is in fact a break in the liberal spirit that has permeated Quebec’s national project since the Quiet Revolution, if we listen to sociologist Gérard Bouchard, who is also present in the documentary. According to him, Quebec is still living through the “remnants” of referendum failures. This “nationalism of openness” designed to “everyone identify themselves with a collective ideal” had its day.

Political scientist Jean-Pierre Couture monitors the turn of nationalism in intellectual circles, when we want to revisit the “Great Darkness” and rehabilitate an old nationalist discourse. After that, Mario Dumont and his late Action Démocratique du Québec created the “reasonable accommodation” crisis from the beginning in 2006, as if the soul of Quebec was being erased by unchanging minorities. This led to the creation of the Bouchard-Taylor commission.

Until then, the modern vision of the “country” seemed to be defined around one territory, Quebec, and a common language, French. But suddenly, “secularism” emerged as a major national issue. According to Couture, in reality, it is xenophobia, and particularly hatred of Muslim women, that is incorporated into acceptable public discourse.

The Parti Québécois won third in the 2007 election, and wants to respond to Mario Dumont accurately with this new discourse – which now covers the CAQ government.

Clearly there was 9/11, 2001, and the realization that Islamic extremism could hit the heart of the West.

However, Gérard Bouchard said he admired his tour of Quebec in 2007 with Charles Taylor on the quality of Quebec’s “civic culture” at these famous assemblies; “98% of what we’ve heard makes sense”, but that’s 2% of the offensive and unacceptable things we’ll see in the media tomorrow.

They are convinced – perhaps naive, like me – that this balanced report will calm things down. But almost never filed, it was stopped by the Charest government, shouted by the PQ and by the ADQ, and unanimously denied: no, we do not hold the crucifix of the National Assembly!

Former Minister Louise Harel revealed that this change of identity led her to leave the Parti Québécois. “The desire to invest in relationships with cultural communities or Quebecers of diverse backgrounds has lost all interest” for the new leaders. For him, it was a dead end.

Former candidate for party leadership Pierre Céré speaks of a “tragedy”. The “Quebec citizenship” project sponsored by Jean-François Lisée, who wanted to submit immigrants to a trial in Quebec, and all these changes “closed the party to modernity, to the new Quebec emerging around it”.

How can they not be proven right by witnessing the departure of the Parti Québécois by the younger generation – also well represented in the documentary?

Historian and journalist Jean-François Nadeau speaks explicitly about a ” Make America Great Quebecois: a backward-looking perspective, rooted in a “frantic conservatism”.

Historian Pierre Anctil is particularly interesting when he speaks of a return to an anti-immigration perspective, which marked nationalist discourse before the 1960s.

You can guess that I am following the main purpose of the documentary, regretting this diminution, the removal of a particular Quebec nationalism.

But whatever one thinks of the question, this film seems to me to be more relevant. It is necessary.

1. Fight for the soul of Quebecon Tou.tv or Saturday at 10:30 pm on ICI Télé

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