Dan Delmar Memo to anglo progressives Even friendly nationalism excludes

    Progressive anglophone nationalists are a small but curious Quebec constituency; some are even sympathetic to the sovereignist cause.

    Why spare any enthusiasm for nationalism when nationalist polices by definition exclude minority views, at least on occasion?

    Quebec’s sovereignty movement could be seen as a logical progression from the brand of nationalism outlined during the Quiet Revolution, itself the logical result of inequalities institutionalized by the former anglo ruling class. The bloodless uprising was unquestionably necessary, as it corrected institutional abuses and prepared Quebec for the 21st century. Along the way, however, it created other inequalities.

    Half a century later, having a rational conversation about institutional discrimination against minorities, anglophones in particular, with nationalist leaders — sovereignist or otherwise — is practically impossible, though government statistics and court rulings demonstrate corrections are needed.

    Even Quebec’s ostensibly pro-diversity Québec solidaire, which has some progressive anglophone support, shrugged off questions last week on dwindling rural anglophone populations. Regurgitating a version of the classic “best treated minority in the world” line cherished for decades among old school nationalists downplaying anglophone angst, QS spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said linguistic minorities generally receive exceptional treatment. And, apropos of nothing, that he is for strengthening the French language in Montreal.

    “What especially worries me right now,” GND said, “is not the fate of the anglophone community,” before bravely expressing his solidarité with the cultural majority, as if supporting one community negated the other.

    That these are the views of the province’s leading progressives, and that those progressives are seen as a credible option in certain anglo circles, is a sign of how warped conversations on diversity have become. These are views typically held by hard-right social conservatives, not socialists, social democrats, liberals or even mainstream conservatives.

    As someone who considers himself a francophile, I believe the French language can be saved from the brink of oblivion, strengthened in Quebec or proliferated across Canada (depending on one’s outlook) while protecting minority languages and reducing institutional discrimination, all at once. 

    Institutional xenophobia in the public sector leaves many non-francophones with conflicted feelings about their place in Quebec; this is especially unfortunate because surveys show there is little demand for ethnocentric nationalism among Quebecers, despite political rhetoric.

    As the downplaying of anglo angst continues, “Quebec: My Country, Mon Pays,” a documentary by Quebec-born John Walker, is to be released Friday in cinemas. It is a personal account of a progressive-minded anglophone contrarian, sympathetic in his youth to the sovereignist cause.

    Like many who’ve taken the 401 for greener pastures, Walker expresses regret for having left the province and speaks fondly of his family’s strong Québécois roots. Later in life, it seems he became more appreciative of his own community’s concerns, listening to one of the few remaining descendants of the storied Clark family express her pessimism about a future in Montreal (from the University Club, calling attention to the community’s historic privilege in the glory days of the Two Solitudes).

    Walker, who said he voted for René Lévesque on socialist principles, recounts how he felt deep sympathy toward Quebec nationalism until (spoiler!) “I felt excluded.”

    What Walker has learned that a few local anglo progressives still haven’t is that all nationalism invariably disappoints.

    It first and foremost fails cultural minority groups whose concerns, even if objectively validated, can be seen as trivial, even mocked. But nationalism also fails the majority, with insular, unambitious policies leading to complacency on education and economic development.

    You can’t stop progress, but nationalism sure does slow it down. Hence, the progressive credentials of Quebec sovereignists are rather debatable.

    Progressive anglos can be commended for their open-mindedness, but from Levesque to GND, even friendly nationalism excludes.

    Dan Delmar is a political commentator, radio host and public relations consultant.

    Twitter.com/DanDelmar

    You can listen to Dan Delmar discussing Quebec: My Country, Mon Pays with former Westmount mayor Peter Trent, singer Paul Cargnello and community worker  Patricia Boushel on Radio-Canada Première’s Médium large here.

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