Gimme a Break, You Two!

Jean & SarkoThe leader of the Bloc Québécois in Ottawa, Gilles Duceppe, and the leader of the Parti Québécois in Québec City, Pauline Marois, are in a tizzy over Governor General Michaëlle Jean telling France President Nicolas Sarkosy to “Look beyond Quebec” for the “million of them out there fighting to save their language and their culture.” But the best Duceppe can do is dismiss the monarchy as a “ridiculous institution.” For heaven forbid that anyone but a Québécois pure laine be allowed to “own” the celebration of Québec City’s 400th anniversary as a marker of the francophone presence on this continent.

It’s that kind of pettiness, narcissism and “ahistoricalness” (if I may coin the term) that dampens whatever sympathy I have sometimes for Québec’s sovereignist cause, which evidently is in the doldrums these days if that’s the best that can be argued. Moreover, Acadians know well that THEY were the first French-speaking settlers in North America, settling temporarily on Isle Sainte Croix in 1604 and founding the first permanent settlement the next year in Port Royal. While in Québec City last summer, someone argued with me that that didn’t count because it was nothing more than an outpost, whereas Québec City was the founding of a “real” city that still exists. That, of course, is a totally vacuous argument if you ask me. And it’s not by lying and rewriting history that sovereignists are helping their cause.

I haven’t been living in Québec very long but it’s amply clear that this is a nation that is distinct from the rest of Canada. Québec has remarkable autonomy in many public spheres, from taxation, its legal system and immigration policy. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about on that last point! As Esposo’s sponsor for permanent residence, I will be taking a direct engagement with the Québec government (not the federal government, which will forward our dossier to Québec when it’s determined that’s where we want to live, and notwithstanding that Esposo’s permanent resident status will be with Canada, not Québec), which will want me to ensure he “adapts” to Québec culture (read “speaks French”). Fortunately, I don’t totally disagree with that position and Esposo wants to improve his French as much as I want to be functional in Spanish one day. But when the political discourse of sovereignists takes a dive like this, I wonder if we’ll ever be good enough for the Duceppe and Marois of this world.

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