Quebec Studies

On Deadly and Saving Sorrows: Three Observations on Criticism in Quebec

Quebec Studies (1997), 24, (1), 210–218.

Abstract

210 On Deadly and Saving Sorrows: Three Observations on Criticism in Quebec An Afterword by Robert SchwartzwaId Editor, Quebec Studies 1 Approximately one year before the October 30, 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty, Premier Jacques Parizeau boasted at an impromptu news confer­ ence that the YES side wouldn't need anglophone or allophone votes to emerge victorious. This enthusiastic recourse to electoral arithmetic dismayed me, be­ cause it suggested that in the eyes of Parti Québécois strategists, minorities were expendable, not just numerically, but politically; they were expendable to the vision of Quebec independence entertained by those who would formulate the referendum question and be in power the day after an eventual victory. Not to address minorities, to say flippantly that one did not have to address them, was to imply that they figured neither in the stakes of the present nor in the community of the future. Even if the arithmetic was correct—and I ruled out nothing—this was clearly not admissible: Surely, there was an entirely autonomous imperative to continue addressing minority communities that was properly speaking ethical. Otherwise, what would it mean for the "birth of a nation" to be celebrated some­ day in the shadow of a willful exclusion of the problematic of social heterogeneity that defines modern democracies? The statement was also a classic example of displacement: "It's a waste of time and energy trying to win enough votes in the allophone community; our resources are better spent winning over the wafflers amongst 'ourselves'," went the calculation. While I believe it can be argued cred­ ibly that such an enunciation is apt to produce the very result upon which it claims to be predicated, I also had to recognize the unsentimental truth around which it was spun. Why, after all, should those of Quebec's citizens who are anglophone, allophone, or who identify as members of minority communities— especially those of recent arrival—take a risk that Québécois francophones de souche have themselves been so reluctant to pursue? The small but not insignificant mi­ nority of allophones who voted YES on October 30, 1995 did so more out of a sense of solidarity than of untroubled belonging, if interviews in "branché" tab­ loids like Voir are to be believed. In "Toutes couleurs unies," for example, allophone YES supporters seemed to take for granted what a large proportion of francophone Québécois de souche did not: the "obviousness" of political sovereignty, and this regardless of how lucid these supporters were about the inevitable difficulties to follow or the real lacunae in the PQ's program with regard to minorities. Yet, for the vast majority of allophones, the accumulated experience of the past three decades has hardly been shaped by any demonstration of inexorable will on the part of their société d'accueil that would persuade them to undertake the momen­ tous psychological shift of allegiances required to identify as citizens of an incipi­ ent sovereign state. On the contrary, francophones de souche have shown themselves to be divided not only over fundamental constitutional options but even over the necessity for, and enforcement of, key provisions of "foundational texts" such as the Charte de la langue française. Typical of what has taken place in recent years is the unseemly debate over Premier Robert Bourassa's proposed amendments to the Dnihor- Çtnrtioc \Wnmo94 Fall1QQ7

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Schwartzwald, Robert