Monday, May 23, 2011

I Am a Bad Nationalist

No surprise really that I am a bad nationalist.  My post on Yoda and nationalism has gotten a couple of angry responses from the Anglophone nationalist community.  I apparently stumbled upon the angry hornet's nest of the anti-Bill 101 movement.  My first reaction to this is: have they not read other posts in my blog?  A quick search on Quebec or separatism or secession will show a multitude of posts where I am rather critical of Quebec separatism, that I am not pleased by efforts to extend Bill 101 rules to higher education (or day care) or to private school.

But such opposition to changes in the status quo are not sufficient for these folks: they want to roll back Bill 101 itself.  I understand their frustration and their desires, and  I agree with many of their views about Bill 101 and the notwithstanding clause.  Yet I am hardly sure that this would be the best thing for the Anglophone community in Quebec.  The passage of Bill 101 and its various implementations has meant that those who are concerned about the survival of French as a language and Quebec as a distinct society do not have to fight for independence.  Bill 101 was a defeat for the sovereigntist movement as it has taken much of the wind out of the sails.  Yes, the Bill has been harmful to the Anglophone community, especially the school system.  But I am pretty sure the status quo is better than being in an independent Quebec.  Without Bill 101, the 1995 referendum might have gone the other way.  A reversal of Bill 101 now would energize a movement that has been flailing along.

But nationalists do not consider tradeoffs--their way or the highway, more or less.  What would replace Bill 101? A stronger separatist movement.  Lovely.  So, I see their point, but wonder if pushing for rollback helps or hurts the cause of preventing Bill 101 from being applied beyond where it applies today.  Maybe their mobilization would be better aimed at issues where Francophones and Anglophones largely agree--like continuing to allow students to choose freely their CEGEP (the two year semi-junior college unique to Quebec).

I have often said that the separatists should give up their fight, since they have lost twice, and focus on improving the lives of those who live in a Quebec that remains in Canada.  The same is true for the Anglophones--they should focus on the same.  Fighting a lost battle that will not be won anytime in the foreseeable future is a waste of time and energy that could have been spent on something more productive.

But my willingness to cut my losses and be practical makes me a sucky nationalist.


Anonymous said...

Bill 101 is Canada's most racist law. It should not be acceptable in a free, tolerant, and just society, that Canada claims to be. It has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supream Court if Canada. The highest justice in the land. Is discriminates against children based on the hereditary back ground of his or her parents. Contradicting the United Nations Declaration of the rights of the child. Of which Canada has signed and agree to uphold. It violates the right if freedom of expession. It creates two cases of people based on language and culture. It's funny how people can go to school so long yet be oblivious injustice of such a law.

Tony Kondaks said...

Mr. Saideman writes:

'But I am pretty sure the status quo is better than being in an independent Quebec. "

Uh, why is that? Do you believe that French Quebecers are such racists and intolerants that they would make life miserable for minorities in an independent Quebec?

Please elaborate, Mr. Saideman.

I have appreciated your columns in the past in which you express your opposition to the language of education provisions of Bill 101, particularly since they affect you personally. But you seem to feel that violation of human rights is an acceptable price to pay for Quebec to stay in Canada. Why is that?

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Saideman.
It is incredible that you would prefer the Anglophones suck it up & remain content with the status quo of oppression, discrimination, harassment, threats, intimidation & provocation to a code of silence rather than face the possibility of a Separate Quebec.

Of what use is all your education, if you advocate passivity to placate the separatist’s bullies, no matter how futile the situation may seem? The human values that unite us are the basic human rights that we should all be entitled to. I have to agree with Tony, when he points out that you “feel that violation of human rights is an acceptable price to pay for Quebec to stay in Canada.”

We are born free, not to be government pawns to be discarded or herded into French utopia due to the separatist insecurities. Denial of choice of education for our children for generations, barriers to job mobility & Francophone hiring quotas for leadership positions to ensure a monopoly of biased legislation to effectively cut out the English tongue is ethnic cleansing and it is wrong.

This Bilingual French supremacy throughout Canada spreads like a cancerous malignancy into the lives of Canadian citizens leaving destruction in its path creating barriers to future opportunity divides families and creates animosity amongst citizens of differing philosophies. If we cannot count on our government, our laws, our supreme courts, our academics to use their knowledge and power to maintain a cohesive community, where we are all equal before the law based on the principals of our Universal Human Rights then we have no democracy.

To have the government dictate the education of our children, intrude in our family lives for a generation is unacceptable. To have no choice in our daily lives, to be coerced, silenced, negated and treated as second class citizens all our lives in a country that claims to be a democracy is a huge hypocrisy. The status quo is not better than being in an independent Quebec. If Quebec were independent, we would at least know where we stood in French Quebec; we would have a choice to live in Quebec or not under their oppressive language laws.

Anonymous said...

Part 2 from anonymous above:

While we are Canadian citizens under Canadian laws, we expect to be treated fairly and equally before the law. With all the genius of the human brain potential, I’m sure if our leadership tried, they could come up with a creative solution to preserve the French language without coercion. For all the billions spent on enforcing Bill 101, they could have paid every immigrant or Anglophone with financial incentives to participate in the preservation of the French language.

A reversal of Bill 101 is essential for the Knowledge Based Information Technology Economy. To have oppressive language laws handicap our children’s future in the 21st century is criminal and abusive. To advocate mastering English in CEGEP is unrealistic for the many children, who will not be able to write a basic college paper in a second language. It is difficult enough in our maternal tongue to express our self clearly on paper. These language laws destroy lives creating language based disabilities or disadvantage. It is not a waste of time to confront the hypocrisy of the Quebec Tyranny. You tell me which child is not worthy of an choice education, equal opportunity and hope for a prosperous future. The first and worst of all frauds is to cheat our own children, to sit silent and passive, while our good conscious tell us this is wrong.

Steve Saideman said...

First, I posted long ago my speculation that in an independent Quebec, a PQ would have to justify its existence by something other than sovereignty--and I would expect at least two parties to develop to compete with each other to be the best Quebec nationalist party. This would produce ethnic outbidding that would lead to harsher policies towards minorities. We have already seen such outbidding take place on "reasonable accommodation." I think it would be worse if there was not a Canadian brake (even if it does not work perfectly) in the system.

It is less about the nature of Quebeckers and more my understanding of how political institutions work everywhere.

Second, should Americans flee the US because of the Patriot Act? Democracies violate the rights they establish. It happens. I recognize that there are tradeoffs for living in Quebec and different ones for living elsewhere. I would not have moved here nine years ago if Quebec was not part of Canada, and I would leave if Quebec were to become independent. But with my occupation, I have limited choices. At the time, my choice was either West Texas or Quebec. Despite the language issue and the nationalist politics, I feel less alien here than I did in West Texas.

So, I guess I do feel that some infringement on my rights is an acceptable price to pay for living in the Montreal suburbs and for having great students and a good job.

I would prefer that Quebec move on, and focus on improving the delivery of public service (and lower taxes) rather than focusing on the nationalist politics. But I am a realist--I don't expect Bill 101 to go away, I don't expect the separatists to go away, and I don't expect the Anglophone nationalists to go away either.

Tony Kondaks said...

Dear Steve;,

Thanks for your response and thanks for your honesty -- for answering my question when you write: "So, I guess I do feel that some infringement on my rights is an acceptable price to pay for living in the Montreal suburbs and for having great students and a good job."

Makes me think of a poem I learned in high school in which a line is repeated every stanza: "I disagree, said W.E.B." but I digress.

I really can't think of a case in which infringement of rights is EVER acceptable (unless it is of the "shouting 'fire' in a crowded theatre variety) and, certainly, keeping a country together and having a great job are not one of them. Giving in to blackmail isn't one, either.

Yes, I agree, with you when you say "Democracies violate the rights they establish. It happens." But when it does, good people don't sit back and LET it happen. You yourself are a victim of Bill 101 (and, by extension, section 23.1.a of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is NOT in effect in Quebec). You are a victim because you don't have the right parent(s), the right classification. But, hey, I do; I have something YOU don't have when it comes to rights and I feel you should be outraged just a wee bit more than you are. You see, this creates two classes of citizens in Quebec and that just shouldn't happen in a free and democratic society.

By the way, the "Canadian brake" you speak of: it isn't a case of not working perfectly, it's a case of never having been applied at all in Canada's history when it comes to protecting minorities. And, certainly, it hasn't been applied since Bill 22 came into effect in 1974...despite a promise made at the time of Confederation that the federal government would ALWAYS use the powers at its disposal whenever a provincial legislature violated the rights of its minorities.

Another question if I may: if you spoke up louder than you have on the question of Bill 101 (and I appreciate the fact that you have to the extent you have in the past), how do you feel that would affect your standing at McGill? Is it inappropriate for me to ask you whether you ever had a concern that it may jeopardize your job putting yourself in a politically incorrect position vis a vis the administration?