quebec nationalism

Julian Samuel jjsamuel at aei.ca
Mon Aug 26 21:50:40 MDT 1996


>From Julian J. Samuel Montr=E9al

French version to be published this fall

Open letter from a Pakistani-British-Canadian=20
to a European-Qu=E9b=E9cois-Nationalist friend:

My Dearest Dr. Hentsch:

This is a response to your =93Ad r=E9f=E9rendum,=94 in Conjonctures No. 24,=
 1996.=20

I pray to the Fathers of Canadian Confederation, to Lionel Groulx and to the
heroes of 1837 that my hobby of poking fun at Qu=E9b=E9cois =93nationalists=
=94 will
not tax our friendship. As you know, this is a risky little addiction. But
how else, Dr. Hentsch, ought I to keep myself from dying of boredom in these
few acres of snow?

I do not see the PQ-BQ as a =93nationalist,=94 movement: I see them as
provincialists. For me, the term =93nationalist=94 is too grandiose to be
attached to an essentially  provincially orientated movement within a
pre-existing nation-state which is as solidly on the map as, say, France,
Pakistan -- give or take a few border skirmishes on the Kashmir question, or
China give or take the troubles on the Tibet issue, The United Kingdom --
give or take the Irish question, and Egypt, solid geopolitical entity that
it is. One couldn=92t easily compare the Quit Indian nationalist movement
against the Raj with the PQ-BQ folk dance toward =93independence,=94 could=
 one?

Can you already feel the hermeneutic tension setting in? Wonderful is it=
 not?

Many friendships have been ruined because of the paradoxes these discussions
bring into the open. But you and I shall survive.

I am not a hard federalist, if federalist at all -- just as you are not a
hard Qu=E9b=E9cois nationalist. I am deeply cynical about all nationalisms=
 up to
and including Canadian nationalism itself. You and your colleagues may
possibly see me as a default =93federalist.=94 It is an honour to be
mis-labeled, and perhaps mis-understood by some people.

In order to respond to your thinking on the post referendum epoch I will: 1)
list the complaints by anglophones which you have not mentioned; 2) deal
with the content of your paper in a general way.

The minority anglophone view

I am disconcerted by the inexorable sins of omission in your essay. At every
turn Qu=E9b=E9cois =93Nationalism=94 is off the hook. Why such a partisan=
 dream
analysis? Father Groulx beatifically smiles down from the clouds. Would it
have been unthinkably incongruous for you to mention any of the corrosive
statements made by members of the parties you seem to unequivocally support?=
=20

What follows is a very incomplete list of utterances made by our
provincalists. I presume, perhaps wrongfully, that Conjoncture readers are
partially nourished by Le Devoir -- a newspaper which does not take pleasure
in the dynamics of  a multifarious debate, except very occasionally (cf.
Marc Angenot: =93D=E9mocratie =E0 la qu=E9b=E9coise,=94 13 June, 1996, and=
 the
subsequent reply: 27 June, 1996).=20

Of course you=92re going to say that The Gazette is worse. May be so.=
 However,
superficially speaking, there is a slightly larger spectrum of views
published in The Gazette than in Le Devoir; neither newspaper would pass the
Noam Chomsky acid-test of =93objectivity.=94 These =93newspapers=94 are not=
 as
open-minded as The Guardian or other left-wing European national papers. But
no need to worry -- we don=92t have a Qu=E9b=E9cois Noam Chomsky. Canadian
journalists are addicted to moderation.

Pearls before swine:

1 Pierre Bourgault froths: it will become dangerous for people who vote
against us, and that a No vote by Jews, Greeks, ET AL is a racist vote.=20
I know he was chucked out for expressing his otherworldly feelings, but many
within the PQ are actively governed by this psychosis.

2 Richard Le Hir said that the Natives have made no contribution to Western
society. Look who=92s talking -- see the attached review of Robert Lepage=92=
s
Elseneur=20

3 Monique Simard bleats that there could be trouble if the francophones
don=92t win. In my humble estimation she is a hillbilly of =93Deliverance=94
proportions.

4 Our Hidden Imam, Lucien Bouchard, did not strongly condemn Parizeau=92s
attempt to incite violence against the minorities. Craven. Only someone very
new to politics would agree that what Parizeau barked out was merely
analytical and not hard-core racism. He physically threatened the minorities
who live here. Please keep this in mind. Bouchard parades as an anti-racist
but really he is a hard racist.  He   sniped that the white race is not
having enough babies. And, he tried to fool the anglos with his speech at
the Centaur.

6 Philippe Par=E9 said non-francophones should not excercise their right to
vote -- and leave this problem to white francophones to resolve.

7 What about Bernard Landry? Well you know how refined he is, so I=92ll=
 spare
you the details -- ask any =93Mexican=94 hotel clerk.

Hence, I shall with, retaliatory pleasure, vote No in referendum III. And, I
will vote for the Liberals provincially not because I admire them but
because they are ever-so-slightly less racist, and ever-so-slightly less
provincialist than the PQ-BQ compact.

European comparisons

Do these statements from our provincialist differ much from the angelic
hectoring of England=92s Enoch Powell: On immigrants he said: =93As I look
ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see the River
Tiber foaming with much blood," (Speech to the Annual Meeting of the West
Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre, Birmingham, 20, April 1968),
and, Mrs. Thatcher=92s remarks about England being =93swamped by an alien
culture=94? (late 70s). Mrs. Thatcher and Enoch Powell are considered to be
the marvels of the age on race and identity politics. They have set the
universal standards of correctitude. You are well enough aware of Jean Marie
Le Pen identity politics so I shan=92t bore you -- just =93a little detail=
=94=20
I thought I=92d mention.

Now, since we are sort of doing =93political=94 =93science,=94 or political
commentary, I would like to ask a question suited to these  mechanical
trades: What=92s the difference between the remarks our provincialists make
and those made by the English trend setters? True the English tend to
allegorize and are slightly more prone to the poetic, but in this case not
by much.

The statements made by our provincialists make them the North American
near-equivalent of France=92s Le Front National. Why adopt such a tolerant
attitude to the PQ BQ? And why adopt their phony dream?=20

Dr. Hentsch you talk about dreams and nightmares in your article: I felt as
I though I was on a couch when I was reading your paper. Does this dreaming
have anything to do with your European roots? Pray tell, can the Vienna
Circle help our provincialists? Can it help me?

Let me summarize the problem in a simple formula. This way fewer people can
claim to have missed the point:

BQ=3Dnationalist tendencies (represented by NT); therefore: PQ=3DNT. Also:
BQ=3DPQ, if and only if BQ=3DNT and PQ=3DNT

it is the case that Enoch Powell (EP)=3DNT.=20
Too, Margaret Thatcher, (MT)=3DNT; so then, by corollary:

BQ=3DMT; PQ=3DEP; and, MT=3DPQ; and, EP=3DBQ=20

because BQ, PQ, EP, MT all equal NT

                                         4=20
and BQ+PQ+EP+MT=3DNT=20

We conclude: The PQ and the BQ are virulent and incurable racists.

quod erat demonstrandum

I hope this clears up the tremendous complications this discussion usually
brings about. It is the case that Qu=E9b=E9cois provincialism is emergent=
 Ethnic
European Nationalism in North America.

So much for the your omissions. Now on to your paper. I think that the
passion that you once might have had for the =93provincialist=94 casus belli=
 has
drained away. Hard to stay attached to losers for long? What you are
offering is an analysis of a ghost ship at sea sending out an SOS that falls
short of all radar screens. Three dots, three dashes, three dots three
dashes....

The Natives figure nowhere in your accounting of things? I want to know Why?
Why are they not part of your =91ad r=E9f=E9rendum=92?

And, of course I must ask: Why does a mere 400 years of the anglophone and
francophone presence in The New World produce the idea of possession? Why
does a mere 400 years produce PQ-BQ chauvinism? To anyone from an older,
more =93nationalist=94 =93culture,=94 400 years is like last Monday,=
 terribly recent
history. Mohen-jo Daro is at least 3500 years old.

You use the term =93Qu=E9b=E9cois=94 (=93L=92identit=E9 collective=94), in=
 your article as a
problem-free term. This is a problem-loaded term. Exactly who are you
talking about? The pure wool people? If you are then exactly who is  that?
Do the cultural parameters, =93Qu=E9b=E9cois=94 include the =93visible=
 minorities=94 who
are not sympathetic to the warp and woof of PQ-BQ provincialists? Does the
term  include new arrivals?=20

I came to Toronto on 2 March 1966, Air Canada flight 857. Although I have
lived in Quebec since 1979, I am not Qu=E9b=E9cois. I never will be. I=
 refuse
provincialism. I left that thinking in Mohen-jo Daro, or Lahore or where
ever I came from. Many people feel as I do. I am like it or not, a Canadian
with a dual nationality that links me to my British colonial masters. White
emergent =93nationalists=94 have to come to terms with this kind of feeling
because it is ubiquitous. I don=92t want yet another passport thank you very
much. Many white francophones don=92t want to be stripped of their=
 nationality
either.

Nationality

The PQ-BQ want to remove my Canadian citizenship. You=92ll find the=
 following
a profoundly stupid question, but ask it I must because it is a question
that haunts many =93visible=94 =93minority=94 person in Qu=E9bec: What=
 guarantees are
there currently in place that =93troublesome=94 =93visible=94 =93minorities,=
=94 would be
treated as =93authentic=94 ex-Canadians after liberation? Is there any
discussion anywhere of a nationality act within the PQ-BQ fold? If so what
will be the model? The British Nationality Act of 1948? Perhaps a nice
little nationality act from France? Or will it be a  PQ home-rule invention?
The PQ and BQ are obligated to concretely answer this question.

I fear that people who have spoken out against the PQ and BQ as I did during
the thrust toward liberation, and plan to do so again in round III, will be
denied their =93Canadian=94 nationality. Who is to say the BQ-PQ will not=
 try to
expel some of us after liberation? I base this mistrust on the current level
of rancid intolerance within the PQ-BQ superstructure. Thierry, tell me I am
exaggerating, tell me it=92s not true, tell me that I am just fabricating=
 this
because I am a federalist...

...but, Thierry, your words will not assuage me. The provincialists might
try to force me back to Ontario or worse they might deport me back to
nationalist Pakistan. These are not made-up fears. These fears are very real
for the dark =93immigrant=94 horde that live amongst the white and pure
=93Qu=E9becois=94. All this will seem scaremongering, but it isn=92t. The=
 Edict of
1492 is sort of already in place. What else would you like me to believe?
Why are English language schools and hospitals being closed down? Perhaps
this is all Gazette paranoia? ///Why did you tell me that I should move to
Ontario?/// You will never ever lose me as a next door neighbour. I will
stay until the house burns down.

I already have Canadian and British nationality. Should I give up my
Canadian nationality because a few separatists, =93a people,=94 within=
 Canada
wants a separate nation-state with a Bongo air-lines and a few embassies
with fax machines and email? Why ought I to be a generous soul when I have
been subjected to 17 years of English-style racism from the white
fancophones? I will not soothe the question of =93Quebecois=94 identity by
voting Yes in referendum III. I don=92t care about identity politics in the
same solid  way as Powell, Thatcher, and Bouchard do.

What is blocking you from seeing the PQ-BQ combination as an emergent
imperialist force? They will bash natives if they ever get their petty
little nation-state, and will censor local dissension. (Quebec will become a
Chile of the North.) Just look at how censorial their newspaper is. Le
Devoir only very reluctantly publishes opposing  views, and I only
occasionally see articles by written by minorities. For those of you who
believe that Le Devoir lives up to august ideals please see its reportage on
refugees: 27, 28, 29 May, 1996. A coalition of refugee-support groups
condemns these articles as xenophobic and is taking the Le Devoir to the
Quebec Press Council for correctitude lessons. Andr=E9 Boisclair, the Qu=E9b=
ec
ex-minister for immigration, and lover of minorities was going to =93reform=
=94
various programmes for refugees. (Hour, 27 June, 1996, page 8). He wanted to
cut funding for programmes that help people who flee fascist regimes. Lionel
Groulx=92s Le Devoir is still his after all these years. Face this awful=
 fact.
Don=92t cover it up. Name me a PQ BQ member who has the courage to suggest a
name change to the Lionel Groulx Metro station?

As you know, many of us came to Canada from countries where nationalism, in
one form or another, deeply wounded us. Families were torn to shreds because
of a line on a map. British India, for example, was subjected to a
religico-ethnic vivisection: Partition, 23:59 hrs, 14 August, 1947. So it is
a waste of time to try to convince us of the programmatic virtues of a an
uneducated technocratic horde of  =93nationalists=94. Name me a PQ-BQ
nationalist as learned and as richly confused as the Iranian Ali Shari=92ati
or as poetic as Indian Mohammed Iqbal? Gerald Godin, Camille Laurin, Ren=E9
L=E9vesque? The dream continues.

And what will a middle-of-the-road francophone =93nationalist=92 regime be?=
 Will
it be more forward-looking that what we already have? No. Is the point of
the provincialist project to make white francophone Quebeckers feel happy
about themselves? No. Will a nationalist nation-state give white
francophones an identity? No. Well then what=92s the point?

I, and hundreds of others, will not run away from the =93nationalist=94=
 threat
this time. We left Pakistan. We left East Timor. We left England. The
suffering and humiliation that many refugees and =93immigrants=94 have=
 undergone
at the hands of British and classical nationalists regimes is not at all
commensurable with what you personally have experienced, so I don=92t not
expect you to see my point of view at all. I=92ll understand if you and your
friends want to waltz with provincialism just one last time. I am not part
of  =93l=92identit=E9 collective=94. And, please don=92t trivialize my own=
 suffering
at the hands of white francophone Qu=E9b=E9cois. I will not turn the other=
 cheek.
...

It is an inescapable fact that the horde (in Le Devoirian sense of
refugee-perception) of white francophone Quebecers did not even understand
the muddy referendum question. Had it been something like:=20

Do you want to separate from Canada and establish a Quebecois nation?=20
Yes or No.=20
If there is a Yes majority on 1 November we will declare Quebec an
independent country.

There would not have been a sperm cell=92s chance of survival in a=
 wine-filled
chalice that this question would have yielded The Birth Of A Nation. =93The
people=94 don=92t want to separate: They have said so in TWO referenda. Only=
 a
handful of deeply anti-socialists =93provincialists=94 want to separate. The=
 50
plus one is just not on.=20

I don=92t for a second believe that many Quebecers were annoyed with
Parizeau=92s last bark. You saw the them cheering on TV. Admit it. Don=92t=
 bury
the evidence. Many white francophones were impressed and happy by his robust
Groulxesque chauvinism. =93Political=94 =93scientist=94 Jos=E9e Legault=
 defended him.

And on a renewed federalism: I am not convinced that the provinces are more
progressive than the center. Yes, the center is retarded but is it as
backward-looking at the provinces? Ralph Klein is not better than Ottawa.
Mike Harris is not better than Ottawa. Lucien Bouchard Ottawa is not better
than.

Hentsch=92s Canadian civil war, circa, 1999

Your civil war crystal-balling does not hold any water for me. One needs two
culturally distinct and extremely polarized armies for a war, even a
friendly little civil war as you predict. Who is going to fight this war? I
would be surprised if Quebecers in the Canadian Armed Forces would defect to
Qu=E9bec. Who except blood-thirsty Gilles Rh=E9aume is ready for a
bows-and-arrows kind of affair? If my knowledge of military tactics serves
me well, a Qu=E9bec army would last no more than a few days. In the northern
sectors, a Qu=E9b=E9cois military would last no more than 48 hours if that.=
 And
of course, since we are talking absurdities, the Yankees would automatically
side with the Canadians. Keep this in mind. A few surgical strikes and the
PQ-BQ would be in purgatory.



An imaginary siege of Montreal by the Quebecois army

=93Political=94 =93scientists=94 ought to remember the general rules of=
 siege: you
can only win if the ratio of attackers to the besieged is 3:1 in favour of
the besiegers. This was proven at Jalalabad, Afghanistan (1989), and most
gorgeously at Dien Bien Phu. General Vo Nguyen Giap in the most beautifully
planned battle of post-World War 2 defeated the French army of 16,000 with
60, 000 Vietminh guerrillas on 7 May, 1954. French imperialism  came
tumbling down. (By the way, if General Giap lived in Quebec he would be
called an =93ethnic=94). It is widely acknowledged, even by French military
historians and intellectuals, (ask Paul Virlio?) that General Giap was
excellent at anti-imperialist guerrilla warfare. Show me his Quebecois
equivalent. Sergeant Paul Rose? Captain Bernard Landry? Field Marshall
Monique Simard? Northern Flank Commander Jos=E9e Legault? You need a=
 military
whiz-kid to bash the Canadian army. Most of Montreal voted No in the last
referendum, and most of the city would side with the federal army. Quebec
would lose the North =93border=94 in a matter of seconds -- a few air=
 strikes
with a little collateral damage would do the job. Perhaps if we are lucky
we=92ll see Irish-style civil unrest or a gooey televisual blood-bath if=
 there
is a slim third referendum victory. But a civil war? Really Thierry you must
be joking? And what about that 3:1 ratio I spoke of?

I have had a dream

As some readers of Conjunctures may know I have interviewed Thierry in two
parts of a three part documentary on the Orient in the Occidental
imagination. Thankfully, Thierry was omnipresent in =93The Raft of the=
 Medusa:
five voices on colonies, nations, and histories,=94 (1993). He is for me one
of the deepest  thinkers on the Orient. [See my review of his =93Imagining=
 The
Middle East, (Black Rose Books), Gazette, 16 Jan 1993].

For part two, =93Into the European Mirror,=94 Thierry and I went to the=
 Alhambra
-- the last fortress of Islamic civility in Granada. It was a great pleasure
to interview him; he spoke at length and with passion. We discussed the
expulsions of Moslems and Jews from Spain in 1492 -- the level of resistance
that was offered; the cultural and political nature of the Reconquest; and
if it was possible to compare the expulsion of the Moslems and Jews back
then with expulsions of Palestinians in 1993 now.=20

With deft analytical skill, and historical command, you tirelessly commented
on the what the politics of architecture meant for you -- traces in stone;
you showed me how the Catholics tried to erase Spain=92s Islamic heritage,=
 and
replaced it with the Catholic intolerance. You connected tourism with=
 history.

I see a mist over a dark ominous wallowing sea. It=92s 1492. Early morning.
You and I are in Spain. I still use my Sony CCD 701 Hi8 Camcorder to record
the events. We are friends. You have somehow accompanied me to the southern
coast of Spain. Why I wonder? It is a blustery day. An indigo sky. Seagulls
squawk their good-byes to the Jews and Arabs. Someone in the crowd asks me
what a Camcorder is. =93Something that could tell the truth if pointed in=
 the
right direction,=94 I reply.=20

I am about to leave for North Africa. My heart melodramatically thuds. A
bright yellow boat with an elongated purple eye painted on its side hiccups
in the small harbour waves. The boat is tightly packed. But it will not=
 sink.=20
I ask, =93Have you come to say good-bye or to ask me to stay?=94 But you=
 remain
silent. You lugubriously turn northward toward the land of Ferdinand II and
Isabella I.

With love and affection,

Julian

byline and notes: Julian J. Samuel has lived in Ontario since 1966, and
Quebec since 1979. The PQ-BQ still think of him as an =93immigrant=94. A=
 french
version of  his Passage to Lahore will appear this fall with Les Editions
Balzac.=20


Background

Julian Samuel was born in Lahore, Pakistan 1952. After living in the UK
(1958-66), he moved to Canada, first to Toronto (1966-74), then to
Peterborough, Ontario, where he completed a degree in English literature at
Trent University, graduating in 1979. Apart from a few months in India and
Pakistan (1981-82), he has since resided in Montr=E9al, where he gained an=
 MFA
degree from Concordia University. Samuel has also conducted his own graduate
level course in Film Studies at Concordia, employing an innovative
open-framed approach to the relationship between revolutionary aesthetics
and conventional documentary. He has produced and directed short and medium
length films and videos: Black Skin; White Masks (1973-79), Dictators
(1982), Resisting The Pharaohs (1984; on the Montr=E9al arms-export=
 industry),
and Red Star over the Western Press: Archive; Algeria, 1954-62 (1987). Red
Star is the first attempt to dramatize the work of Frantz Fanon; the tape
which was also shown at the London Filmmakers co-op to also led to his being
invited to participate in a international conference in Algeria in 1987. His
work is represented in Canadian national and provincial collections, and has
been exhibited and screened in Canada, Cairo, Havana and London and New
York. His articles have been published in Arab World Review, Canadian
Literature, Fuse, Serai, Ba-zzar.

Julian Samuel has published a book of poems Lone Ranger in Pakistan, (1986),
The Raft of the Medusa (with Joceylne Doray); a novel, Passage to Lahore;
which weaves together autobiographical reflections on Britain, Lahore,
Karachi and French Canada exploring cultural politics, racism, sexual
politics, etc., (Mercury Press, 1995).=20

He has completed, The Raft of the Medusa: five voices on colonies nations
and histories (1993)- a work on the construction of occidental history and
Into the European Mirror, (1994) which discusses Arab history and the
expulsions which transpired in Spain in the fourteen hundreds, and City of
the Dead and the World Exhibitions (1995) -- about architecture, Islamic
history and the rise of fundamentalism. He was artist in residence at The
Banff Centre - Media Arts, 1993.

end




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