Even when François and Simon’s show says something with a kernel of rightness, it comes out false and discriminatory. This is what happens with their statements on multiculturalism and interculturalism.
French Language Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette told France’s French Academy that Canadian multiculturalism was a “thorn in Quebec’s side.” This kind of irresponsible statement critical of your own country – in an address in a foreign country – would be enough to get any minister fired in any normal jurisdiction. But not here in Quebec.
Instead of dismissing Jolin-Barrette, Prime Minister Legault doubled the words of his minister. Legault says he “opposes multiculturalism and wants to promote interculturalism where there is a culture, Quebec culture, where you integrate into that culture.” And here’s the catch.
What is this culture true to? Because if Quebec is a democracy, it must be more than the French language. Because if that’s all there is, it’s nothing but ethnic authoritarianism. Jolin-Barrette had attacked the Canadian and American media coverage of Bill 96 for calling it “authoritarian” when it was, according to him, about the protection of “the collective will of a vulnerable proletariat on individual will. This is the vocabulary of Stalinism. Jolin-Barrette has very convincingly proven the point of view of his detractors. But Legault also supported his minister on this point saying that he is “opposed to putting all cultures on the same level”.
If Legault and Jolin-Barrette want a culture worth protecting, let them stand up and vigorously proclaim that Quebec culture represents the West, liberalism, pluralism and the universal rights of the Enlightenment that go with it. The right to freedom of expression, the right to free assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and the protection of the individual against the tyranny of the majority. Their way of speaking resembles the Chinese cultural revolution à la Québécoise. French on everything, including fundamental rights.
But Legault and Jolin-Barrette don’t care about individual rights. In fact, Legault supported Jolin-Barrette’s position that “Canadian federal law has almost absolute protection of individual rights to the detriment of Quebec collective rights.” If Legault and Jolin-Barrette believe that individual rights should be erased on the altar of French purity, they are very dangerous men indeed. They call for cultural cleansing.
Legault and Jolin-Barrette have even attacked commerce as an accomplice to “acculturation”. With Legault’s endorsement, Jolin-Barrette said, “…embracing English and bilingualism is not a way to be open to the world, whether you see it as the language of Shakespeare or of Silicon Valley. . What is presented as an opening masks an acculturation that is accompanied by a significant loss of memory and identity. He even went so far as to say that “the time is over when people can ask to be served in English or in French in Quebec”.
A culture must be more than a language. A “distinct society” that protects a language and forgets individual, constitutional, international and vested rights is not a society appealing to the conscience of the world. It does not protect a “vulnerable proletariat”. It protects a majority of threat. It is a dark vision.