Martin Patriquin: The Quebec Liberals’ sad interculturalism gambit

Of note:

The Quebec Liberal Party is in the midst of an identity crisis. About 150 years into its existence, the party finds itself in the very unfamiliar position of being out of power and largely out of favour with the province’s electorate — it has been left bobbing in the deep blue wake of Premier François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec. So the Quebec Liberals appear to have staked their future in targeting the gut-level issues of identity and cultural insecurity. In so doing, Quebec’s de facto multicultural party is distancing itself from the very concept, and the consequences are both huge and unfortunate for the province as a whole.

Last weekend, the Liberal Party’s youth wing voted in favour of the adoption of a law on interculturalism. For those of you rushing to the nearest dictionary, don’t bother; the term is obscure in origin and application. Essentially, it’s a contract between Quebec society and its new arrivals, in which integration happens by way of a common language (French) and culture. Apparently, it’s official Quebec policy, though when I asked in 2011, no one could tell me for how long. “It’s been like that for a number of years, I think,” a spokesperson told me at the time. The word barely appears on the government’s website and is rarely uttered by its ministers.

But the definition of the term isn’t nearly as important as the context in which the Liberals are suddenly pushing it. Quebec’s Liberal Party has long been the parking lot of choice for the anglophone and allophone vote. Though this has given the party a long and enviable advantage in Montreal and its immediate environs, this sizeable voting bloc was a millstone for the party in the last election. The CAQ savaged the Liberals for being too English, too urbane, too out of touch and too … multicultural.

The CAQ’s trope, shabbily hidden behind these code words, is simple enough: that recent arrivals to Quebec don’t assimilate, are ambivalent or worse toward the French language, and are as such a detriment to the future of the Québécois nation. It worked like hell, and now the Liberals want in.

Granted, it isn’t the first time the party has been late to the identity game. In 1974, in an attempt to stave off a surging Parti Québécois, the Liberals introduced Bill 22, which made French the official language of government and the workplace. The party was at first fervently against Bill 101, the Parti Québécois’s ensuing (and far more restrictive) language law before coming out in its favour.

But there is a massive difference between Quebec’s language laws and the CAQ’s more recent legislation targeting immigrants and religious minorities. Bill 22 and Bill 101, the latter of which has thankfully been law for over four decades, addressed a quantifiable problem concerning the French language. Namely, without legislation buttressing its precarious existence in Quebec’s classrooms and workplaces, French would disappear. Conversely, the alleged non-integration of recent arrivals to Quebec is an unsubstantiated fear — a “crisis of perception”largely conjured by certain members of the political and media classes eager for a wedge issue to exploit. In fact, and contrary to this fear, Quebec’s language laws have ensured that successive waves of immigrants are schooled in French. Interculturalism had exactly nothing to do with any of this.

Its interculturalism gambit is the Liberal Party’s attempt to ingratiate itself with the white francophone majority by appealing to its baser fears. Even sadder: I doubt the party will suffer one iota because of it. This province’s immigrants, allophones and English types, long supporters of the Quebec Liberal Party out of conviction or convenience, have no one else to vote for. They are a captive audience, for better and now for worse.

Source: Martin Patriquin: The Quebec Liberals’ sad interculturalism gambit

Time to shake things up in battered Liberal Party, says youth wing

Kind of ironic when most polls indicate, certainly in Montreal, a decline in the importance of the identity issue.

Along with the typical or deliberate misunderstanding of multiculturalism; which I repeat and continually will do so, is about integration: linguistic, social and economic while recognizing identities, all in the context of Canadian laws and regulations:

Quebec’s Liberal youth wing is proposing the party ditch the concept of multiculturalism in its vision of society as a way of reconnecting with the francophone majority.

Releasing a package of resolutions they say should orient the party in its rebuilding process, youth wing president Stéphane Stril said the Liberal party needs a major political shakeup.

The party needs to draw conclusions from its stinging electoral defeat in 2018 and emerge more progressive, more nationalistic and more active in asserting Quebec’s place in the federation, Stril told reporters at a Quebec City news conference Wednesday.

It should hop on the environmental bandwagon and make fighting climate change priority one should it take power in 2022.

And it should not shy away from the identity issue, which the Coalition Avenir Québec milked with great success in the 2018 election campaign and brought it to power.

“We want the Liberal party to incarnate civic nationalism which would not be based on belonging to an ethnic group but would be a political project, a culture, a language,” Stril said, adding a new Quebec constitution could incarnate the vision.

The Liberals say while the CAQ’s approach to the question amounted to a debate on religious symbols and stirring up fear of others, they believe there are better ways to ensure that Quebec’s identity and culture flourish in the North American context.

If the Liberals form the next Quebec government, they should adopt a law enshrining the concept of interculturalism as its model of choice for integrating new arrivals.

While multiculturalism is often used to refer to a society where people of different cultural backgrounds live side by side without necessarily much real interaction, the youth wing defines interculturalism as recognizing the existence of a francophone majority in Quebec along with the right to individual freedoms.

It would state the best path for immigrants is to learn French and actively interact and exchange with the majority.

“This common culture must serve as a pedestal for the integration of new arrivals,” the youth say in a document released at the news conference.

Although the federal Liberals see the concept of multiculturalism as central to their vision of Canada, Quebec’s Liberals and other provincial political parties have never been hot on the idea.

The Liberal youth wing notes former Liberal leader Robert Bourassa distanced himself from the concept while he was in charge, arguing that such a passive approach was not the best way to protect Quebec’s language and culture in North America.

The youth plan — if adopted at the annual convention this weekend in Quebec City — will become part of a wider debate as the Liberals attempt to reboot after suffering their worst electoral defeat in their 152-year history.

The Liberals want to dip into the identity issue as a way to woo francophone voters living outside the Montreal region. In the last election, nearly all the seats the Liberals won were in Montreal.

But hovering in the background all weekend will be questions about who will actually lead the party. The Liberals currently have no leader since Philippe Couillard resigned after the electoral defeat.

The only declared candidate so far is St-Henri—Ste-Anne MNA Dominique Anglade, who announced plans in June to seek the top job

Her potential opponents Marwah Rizqy (St-Laurent), Marie Montpetit (Maurice-Richard) and Gaétan Barrette (La-Pinière) are considering running for the top job but have yet to announce.

In May, the Liberals decided to elect their new leader in the spring of 2020, in time for the next provincial election.

All the potential candidates are expected to turn up for the Liberal youth wing event being held on the campus of Université Laval Saturday and Sunday. The event will wind up with a speech by interim Liberal party leader Pierre Arcand.

Source: Time to shake things up in battered Liberal Party, says youth wing