27.3.07

The ADQ: from 5 to 41 Seats in Parliament, thanks to the Veil and other identity threatening cultural items !

The ADQ, Action Démocratique du Québec, has nothing democratic about it, the more exact description is populist. It is a rural conservative nationalist party, far right on economic and social issues. Before today and yesterday's provincial elections in Québec, it wasn't even recognised as an official party in parliament. Mario Dumont, its leader, was able to get elected few elections ago in his Rivière Du Loup riding, some 500 Kms north east of Montréal on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence river, and get elected on a simple promise, by defining himself as a staunch nationalist but not a separatist, conforting those Quebecers who are nationalists but afraid to separate from Canada. I call them the wary nationalists, 'les nationalistes peureux'.

Québec's separatists are the second largest party in Quebec and were for sometimes the first in the polls, despite not succeeding in rallying a majority of Quebecers to the separatist project. They came close to winning a referendum on separation on two occasions. And on the second occasion, 1995, Jacques Parizeau, the party leader and then prime minister declared that the defeat in the referendum was made possible by 'L'argent et les Allophones' (The Money and the Allophones). Some have understood 'L'argent' as targeting the Jewish community who is, in a large majority, wealthy and against the separation of Quebec. Parizeau was shunned by his own party after his defeat and this declaration. The Parti Québécois, PQ, and its sister party at the federal level, Le Bloc Québécois, which enjoys a solid majority in Québec, have been making efforts to integrate Quebec's immigrants into the political landscape by offering them seats since they lost the 1995 referendum on sovereignty. Québec's immigrants, on the other side, those who stay in the province and don't migrate to other provinces, and who come in their majority from francophones countries, Haiti and north African and arab countries, were glad at the new opportunities. A synthesis was taking place between a very particular history, the history of Quebecers and their English rulers and tormentors, and the history of these new immigrants. Not only a synthesis, but a mutual empathy. This is when immigrants like me understood that Quebec's separatism has, in essence, nothing to do with Quebec's nationalism, although, at its origin separatism was founded by the most reactionnary and nationalist elements of the Quebec society. But that was when the English speaking community acted as colonisers toward the Québécois Francophones in their own country. Moreover, diffferent political tendencies existed inside the PQ; leftists, conservatives, moderates. Recently however, the PQ was mutating and experiencing internal divisions at the same time the synthesis between its separatist project and immigrants was being achieved. It was too much for a party who elected André Boisclair, an openly gay and ambitious young man who declared having consumed drugs when he was minister, as its leader, in a show of its determination to get rid of its own reactionary and conservative elements. It seems however that the choice of Boisclair didn't find an echo in the Quebec population. I know it didn't have the same negative impact among immigrants because in my riding* which votes against the PQ since the 1970s, no matter who is the opposite candidate, the PQ candidate, practically an unknown man from the immigrant population, fared well (but not enough to get elected) accordingly to the percentage of immigrants in the riding.

On the other hand, Jean Charest, who is an ex federal conservative, turned provincial liberal, was never able to convince true Quebec liberals of his conversion. Many of these true liberals divided their vote between, on one hand, the green party and the party of the left (Quebec solidaire) which together gathered 8% of the vote without succeeding in getting seats in parliament, and the PQ. The result of both processes, the lack of confidence in Charest from True liberals and the lack of confidence in Boisclair from 'wary nationalists' who used to vote PQ but NO for the separation referendum, and conservatives, is the weakening of the two major parties in favor of the ADQ.

Watching Quebec Politics, I realised that it is only in Quebec that nationalism and separatism are not synonymous and I would say, according to today's parliamentary election results, that nationalism is more pervasive outside the separatist party than inside. Yesterday's elections were called by the present prime minister, whose liberal party was elected three years earlier, on the premise that the PQ was having a hard time in the polls. The results have however brought a third party in the equation, the ADQ. The surge of the ADQ is due to two simple facts, the low popularity of the two main leaders inside their parties and the rise of the veil politics in Quebec.

Three months ago, Hérouxville's town council adopted a chart for its inhabitants forbidding the veil, the niqab, and the stoning of women, without the knowledge of its inhabitants, who were shocked at the discovery of the name of their towm in the newspapers as a racist town. Because of course, there were some false assumptions about Quebecers Muslims in this chart. The chart caused a controversy but it turned out that there was not one single Muslim living in this small town. Two years ago, some Orthodox Jews, who refuse to send their children to regular public schools were lobbying the liberal government for funding. The funding was allowed only to be retracted after an outcry from the Quebec population fiercely against such an approach despite the fact that Quebec's schools were still only four years ago funded by the government and recognised along religious lines (Catholic and Protestant). Last year, the ministry of education realised that some Jews actually homeschool their children without any official supervision (actually you can homeschool in Quebec but you have to report to the minstry of education, follow the guidelines, and so on...) The ministry stepped in seeing in this process a coercion on the child and was going to propose to these families some accomodations within the public school system. Last year, a Sikh boy went to the supreme court to force the Quebec school he goes to to accpet him with a dagger in his kippa and won. The accumulation of these cultural particularisms became a central debate in the Quebec society. Most Quebec citizens, who declare themselves at a rate of 60% as racists, were against accomodationg cultural and religious communities, not for the sake of secularism, mind you, but in the name of the Christian character of the Quebec society. The government created an official committee called 'Committee for reasonable accomodations'.

At a public meeting at my son's college early this year, one prominent member of this committee, Canadian political philosopher Charles Taylor, was speaking on the importance to bring people together and on the danger of adopting the theory of the 'Clash of civilisations' by stigmatisating a religion and a culture in a multicultural globalised world and society, I asked him if the solution to the 'Clash of civilisations' wasn't actually the reinforcement of muticulturalism and he agreed. I understood however, after the conference, why the philosopher of multiculturalism, Charles taylor, didn't bring the word once in his talk. I was assailed by two teachers of my son who told me that multiculturalism and its legal companion, the Canada charter of individual rights, were something the former liberal prime minister of Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, invented and implemented against the Quebec society and when I asked why they think it was against them, they answered that they see themselves as a Christian only culture and that immigrants should abide by their culture and when I said that Quebec has abandoned religion in its definition as a nation in the sixties, they said that still, Christianism was part of their identity, of who they are and this is how they see themselves in the face of the immigrant population (more than 50%) in their province.

I was really stunned by the level of nationalism and the influence of religion in this society. The parti Québécois is ahead of its people and this is why even its sympathisers were not able to follow its transformation. There is one other premise in this, the failing of politics. If people are returning to the religious definitions of their identity, this means that politic has failed them. It means that Politic was not able to bring to them a satisfactory social project.

Mario Dumont, the leader of the PQ, is taking people as they are, he stepped in this hesitation. He jumped on the Hérouxville controversy affirming his support for the mayor(I still have to check how Hérouxville voted). He asked the director of Elections Quebec to make sure that Niqab was not allowed on voting day despite the fact that in the whole province there are only few niqabs, and not sure that these women have citizenship and vote rights, and despite the fact that there was never an incidence of the sort at election day before. The controversy took hold of the media for more than a week until the eve of election day. This is how Mario Dumont, a rural conservative whose party didn't take any seat within the city of Montreal, the largest city in Quebec, who is very close to Stephen Harpers ideals and to Bush's ideals on economic and social matters, won the second place in yesterday's elections, putting the PQ in third place. The three parties are however close, 32 % for the liberals, 30 % for the ADQ and 28 % for the PQ. We have a minority government with a minority opposition.

I am not proud of Quebec and I am not proud of our politicians. I voted for the PQ, even though I do not adhere to their separatist project. But I vowed to vote for them when they were, with Quebec Solidaire (a small leftist party), the only to march with Lebanese asking for a ceasefire in Lebanon during the Israeli agression on Lebanon last summer.
*My riding is composed of 15 % Anglophones, 55 % Francophones, and 30 % Allophones (based on the language spoken at home) of whom 4% are Arabs, probably 20% Jewish, and the other are Russians and Eastern Europeans. Jewsih and Anglo, as well as a sizeable part of the Francophones must have voted for the Liberals who had 46 % of the votes, compared to the PQ who had 23 % pof the votes, 10 % for the green party, 9 % for the left, and the rst for other two small parties.

2 comments:

Naj said...

For me, the ADQ win signified what a xenophobic right-leaning society Quebec really is! The choices were between right to the left (PQ), right in the middle (PLQ) right to the right (ADQ)

I'm gonna move to Alberta!

At least there are no police languages there!

ابدلرحیم said...

You claim that the ADQ is far right? I politely ask, have you read the parties platform? Yeah, it looks a little conservative maybe compared to le PQ et les libéraux, but the ADQ is by no means "far right"

 
Since March 29th 2006