F. Roger Devlin, American Renaissance, August 13, 2018
Jean-Claude Rolinat and Rémi Tremblay, Le Canada français: De Jacques Cartier au génocide tranquille, Editions Dualpha, 2016, 252 pp., €25 (soft cover, in French)
This history of French Canada, with a focus on its recent political struggles for independence, is by Jean-Claude Rolinat, French historian, nationalist activist, and author of many books in French, and Rémi Tremblay, spokesman for the Fédération des Québécois de souche (“Federation of Old Stock Quebecers”) and editor of the nationalist magazine Le Harfang (“The Snowy Owl” — a symbol of Quebec).
Conquered and subdued by the British in 1760, the citizens of New France achieved a “revenge of the cradle,” increasing to a population of several million and creating a distinct, French-speaking society in Quebec, in the heart of Canada. Besides their language, three traits have distinguished the Quebecers from other Canadians: high birthrates, a predominantly rural way of life, and the powerful influence of the Catholic Church in everyday life, especially schooling.
The 1960s, however, brought the “Quiet Revolution,” which saw the secularization of government and education, the creation of a welfare state, and a realignment of the province’s political factions around the issue of independence vs. “federalism,” or loyalty to Canada. This period also witnessed the start of a drastic fall in the fertility rate from 4.2 children per woman in 1956-61 to just 1.6 today, and the beginnings of mass immigration to Canada as a whole.
The principal political vehicle of the province’s aspirations to independence — the Parti Québécoise (PQ), founded in 1968 — has always displayed a distinctly social-democratic sensibility. They champion a Quebec open to immigration of French-speakers from anywhere in the world. Sharing the “antiracist” prejudices of their time and accustomed to thinking of themselves primarily as a linguistic minority, many Quebec nationalists treat language as a more important basis for identity than race.
The new party captured 23 percent of the provincial vote on its first try in 1970. Six years later, it came first in a three-way race, with 41 percent of the popular vote and a majority of seats in the provincial legislature. Party leader René Lévesque became premier, and arranged for a popular referendum on independence in May 1980, but only 40.5 percent of Quebec’s voters favored sovereignty at this time. Historians are not even agreed on whether 50 percent of the province’s French-speaking majority supported independence; the English-speaking minority were joined by the Italian, Greek, Jewish, and indigenous communities in solidly opposing the breakup of Canada.
In retrospect, it appears that much of the electoral support for the PQ in 1976 can be attributed to widespread economic anxiety and scandals in the previous government rather than to any widespread desire for independence. Despite the PQ’s assurances that an independent Quebec would retain close economic ties to Canada, many voters clearly feared for their pensions. Nevertheless, the PQ retained its majority in the elections of 1981, and continued to govern the province until 1985.
The sovereignty issue took a back seat during these years, but 1988 saw the choice of Jacques Parizeau — more militant than his predecessor René Lévesque — as leader of the Parti Québécois. The ’80s and early ’90s also saw rapid growth in the immigrant population, 88 percent of which settled in Montreal. “Allophones” — people who spoke neither English nor French — became a third recognized linguistic category along with the province’s traditional Francophone majority and Anglophone minority. Among the newcomers, the most common native tongues were Chinese, Spanish, and Punjabi. Most such immigrants were uninterested in independence.
In 1994, Jacques Parizeau was elected Premier of Quebec and lost no time in arranging for a second referendum. It was held in October 1995 and attracted widespread interest and excitement. Everyone knew the vote was going to be closer than in 1980; independence was defeated by a margin of just 50.6 to 49.4 percent. Mr. Parizeau noted: “We were beaten by money and the ethnic vote.” He was widely criticized for referring openly to the role recent immigrants had played in the outcome, although it was obvious to everyone.
By 1996, 9.4 percent of the population of Quebec were of recent immigrant origin. In Montreal, old-stock French Canadians were a minority, and these changes were evident in other ways: 1991 saw blacks riot twice in Montreal, sacking 25 businesses and damaging police cars.
In December 2002, the public learned of the “Wolf Pack,” a group of more than 15 blacks — mostly Haitian — operating an underage prostitution ring of white teenagers in Quebec City. One lawyer defended the blacks, arguing that “prostitution was a natural part of Haitian culture.” The black population of the city, estimated at 700-800, complained of racism. The investigation was dropped and the police were ordered not to comment.
Long ago, an early Quebec nationalist, Raymond Barbeau, accused the Canadian federal government of wanting to diminish the influence of French-speakers: “Immigration has no other goal than to drown the French population and reduce the proportion of French Canadians in Canada, and even in Quebec.” He was mistaken on the matter of motive: Anglo societies have no need of a restive French-speaking minority to open themselves up to replacement-level third-world immigration. The United States, Great Britain, and Australia are proof of this. But Barbeau was right to fear that mass immigration would doom the separatist cause. In recent years, opponents of sovereignty have pointed to immigration to argue that independence would be pointless: “Would [independence] prevent the dissolution of Franco-quebecoise society in a multi-ethnic soup where Turkish, Chinese, Sikh, and Antillean immigrants enjoy equality?”
The PQ still exists and still hopes to break away from Canada, but it also continues to be hobbled by a reluctance to face the demographic issue. In 2015, Party leader Pierre-Karl Péladeau remarked: “We do not have 25 years to realize this [project of independence]. With demography, with immigration, it is certain that we lose [the equivalent of] one county each year.” (Counties were the administrative divisions of Quebec until 1983; there were 76 of them.) Mr. Péladeau’s simple statement of fact triggered a storm of denunciation; he instantly backpeddled and apologized. This is not what one expects from a man who hopes to establish a new country.
More recently, the latest PQ leader, Jean-François Lisée, had the temerity to suggest that Spain, France, and Belgium might be desirable sources for immigration — only to be denounced by fellow party-member Maka Kotto, a new arrival from Cameroon.
The whole point of the independence movement is to ensure the long-term survival of a small French nation in North America amidst a vast ocean of English speakers, and even most of the French-speaking opponents of independence hope to achieve some kind of autonomy within the existing Canadian federation. But it is becoming increasingly obvious that neither independence nor long-term survival can be assured until the leaders of the French-Canadian people are able to face the realities of race and immigration. They will have to break free from the stifling control of political correctness before they can ever hope to break free from Canada. As Mr. Rolinat and Mr. Tremblay conclude:
The Parti Québécois must become the party of the Québécois people and assume this role by rejecting the snares of multiculturalism and mass immigration, which have been used by Ottawa to dilute the French-Canadian people on its own territory.