Archive for the ‘QUEBEC SEPARATISM’ Tag

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: MONSIEUR COKEHEAD   Leave a comment

MONSIEUR COKEHEAD

John Chuckman

I confess that while completely disagreeing with the aims of the Parti Québécois I think the party has had some riveting leaders. René Lévesque, the Parti’s founder, was a fascinating man, a man whose disarmingly intimate manner of speech rarely failed to spark interest. You could watch him puffing cigarettes and rasping his eloquent words for hours. Later, the party chose Lucien Bouchard, perhaps the most electrifying public speaker Canada has produced. This was a man capable of giving goose bumps to listeners, a fiery intelligence on a mission.

Well, members of the Parti Québécois have just elected a new leader, André Boisclair. He doesn’t quite fall into the category of exciting politician, but he is a capable speaker in Canada’s two languages, better, certainly, than the party’s last leader. He has the saving grace of appearing not to be subject to fits of rubbery facial gymnastics like the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Gilles Duceppe, a man who unfortunately often resembles the valedictorian student at a college for clowns.

Boisclair is not without excitement of a kind: he has confessed on many occasions to his past use of cocaine, claiming credit for his honesty in confessing.

But his honesty likely owes much to the many witnesses of his activities. For Monsieur Cokehead, as I prefer to call him, cocaine use was not restricted to his time as a private citizen but included his time as a minister of Quebec. There are few nasty things ministers do that are not recorded by opponents, the press, and potential competitors within a party. So the “honest” approach was pretty much a desperate gamble.

Few readers will be unaware of the terrible, bloody battles in Quebec between biker gangs fighting over control of the drug trade, people blown up in the streets as though they lived in Bush’s Baghdad. The cocaine that yuppies and hip politicians laughingly snuffed up at stylish parties was, in fact, soaked with human blood. Monsieur Cokehead cannot have been unaware of this fact. His honesty, when questioned, in associating his activities while in office of a government fighting narco-terrorists is considerably less than refreshing.

Consider the only other cokehead who, so far as I am aware, competed (successfully) for high office, George Bush. I don’t claim that all the human misery and failures of Bush are attributable to his earlier and extensive use of cocaine, but they are part of the same moral and intellectual fabric. Arrogance and lack of judgment are behind everything from the Bush horrors in Iraq and the disgrace of New Orleans to the use of cocaine and excessive alcohol.

Does any clear thinker believe that Monsieur Cokehead has not already shown a monumental lack of judgment making him totally unsuitable for high office? Imagine him in charge of another army, the one that recently has been spoken of as needed by an independent Quebec? Imagine the young recruits – or would they be conscripts? – being assigned duties by someone with Bush’s judgment?

This is not a promising vision for the future of a creative and vibrant part of Canada. But then separatism itself is not a promising future. The world does not need another mini-state that quite likely would fall under the virtual control of the United States, a country whose history shows little tolerance for those speaking any language other than English.

The insults once heard from some thoughtless English Canadians, words I thought foolish in the 1960s, were pretty much obliterated by René Lévesque’s eloquent simmering rage. I think in Canada’s history, he has an important place as a kind of steam-pressure release valve for a lot of anger and frustration that might have been directed in a much more destructive direction.

Lucien Bouchard gave a referendum for separatism its last great crusade, but he failed because most people in Quebec instinctively know that separatism represents an excessive reaction and that Canada has become one of the world’s most tolerant and decent nations.

Monsieur Cokehead rather aptly symbolizes the now largely-empty rhetoric of the separatist movement.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: THE GOMERY REPORT AND SEPARATISM   Leave a comment

THE GOMERY REPORT AND SEPARATISM

John Chuckman

Following the Gomery Commission Report, the question often is asked, “What do the Liberals have to do to be thrown out of office?”

But the question is politically naïve. Let’s be clear just what the scandal Justice Gomery investigated involves. Except for a limited number of individuals who took advantage and who should be prosecuted, the scheme was not about the Liberal Party enriching itself. However inappropriate the method, it was an effort to fund the fight against separatism.

I believe most Canadians understand this, and they have pretty much understood from the first revelations by the Auditor General. Many who have treated the scandal as almost an apocalyptic development were those already opposed to the Liberals, often either separatists or new Conservatives. The sense of grievance does cut more deeply in Quebec, but this has a great deal to do with embarrassment at national exposure of the way things traditionally were done in Quebec politics. Quebeckers see their politics having risen above the days of Maurice Duplessis, but there remains a long history in the province of similar schemes by politicians, and not all with any worthy intent.

The kind of choices we are required to make when voting in elections are described by economists as bundled choices, the take-it-or-leave-it of a whole bundle of goods rather than a set of individual choices. You can’t pick and choose policies in any party, you must accept the whole bundle when you vote. The Liberal bundle comes with this scandal, but what does the new Conservative party’s bundle include? It includes a leader, Stephen Harper, who has said many times Canada should have joined the illegal invasion of Iraq, an invasion that killed a hundred thousand innocent civilians, destroyed the economy of the country, and now has precipitated a hopeless civil war.

In advocating this course of action, Harper ignored huge ethical issues, to say nothing of international law. Some judgment, some ethics. This fact alone for many Canadians is reason enough to vote Liberal while holding their noses, seeing the party punished with a continued minority. More broadly, the new Conservative party shows signs of being influenced by American neo-cons, making it no longer the traditional Canadian Conservative party but something of a minor branch of America’s ugliest, most extreme political thought.

The Conservative bundle also includes Peter MacKay who set the ethical example of being a senior executive having an affair with a subordinate. After Belinda Stronach left his party, MacKay went on a round of interviews, casting himself as poor, broken-hearted lover and his ex-lover as ruthless, unfeeling person. That’s an uninspiring set of behaviors from the second-in-command of a party trying to position itself as an ethical alternative. Of course, we still all remember MacKay’s breaking his very publicly-given word when assuming leadership of the former Progressive Conservative Party.

The tenth anniversary of the second Quebec referendum was recently celebrated with many discussions of how close the vote had been, but it always seems to me that this perspective is false. Go back and read the question that was printed on referendum ballots. Had the proposition passed, there would have been no mandate for the Parti Quebecois to do anything. The question was a textbook example of political obfuscation, difficult even to read and with many possible interpretations.

Of course, the nation wanted to avoid the political paralysis that surely would have followed a victory for yes, and that is precisely the danger the separatist movement represents. There has never been a majority, not even close to a majority, in Quebec ready to say yes to a clear question of separation, but the genuine threat of an unclear, politically-charged yes vote is years of national political instability.

I believe that with the recent statements by Lucien Bouchard concerning Quebec’s future, we may have reached the beginning of the end of the separatist movement. It will not go away quickly, and perhaps it will always have some adherents, but its ultimate decline is a matter both of demographics and economics. In a sense, too, separatism has become something of an outdated issue as Canada has become a home for people from many lands with bilingualism an established policy.

I would like to think, too, recognition of what a wonderful country Canada is has slowly been taking root. I know of no minority anywhere that is today treated so generously as French-speakers are today in Canada. You cannot rise in the civil service of this country without being bilingual. French-speakers have been elected to, or appointed to, all the country’s most important posts, indeed often out of proportion to their numbers. Quebec today is a considerable success story, not a tragedy.

You have only to compare it to the story of various minority groups in the United States. French-speakers in Louisiana and Maine have all but disappeared. They no longer even pronounce their French names the correct way. Blacks, while finally getting the right to vote after nearly two centuries, still today form a huge underclass in the United States.

The book, “White Niggers of North America” had a catchy title, but it was exaggerated when published, and it is completely inaccurate today.