“Quebec caught in a trap. French forced into decline. Its political influence doomed. 12 million residents in Montreal. Quebec with 5 million. Ottawa's grand plan explained. Justin is smarter than we think. They want to assimilate us all. All this, without any debate. Two catastrophic scenarios.”
Forget King Charles III’s coronation or the Liberal Party Convention. If you woke up Saturday morning in Quebec, this was the apocalyptic front page that graced your browser, courtesy of the Journal de Montreal:
The Journal’s cri-de-coeur was in response to the federal government’s increase in the annual immigration level to 500,000 people. This increase, designed to boost the population of Canada to 100 million by the end of the century, would marginalize Quebec’s influence within Canada. It is estimated that Quebec’s overall share of the Canadian population would fall from 25 to 10%, while francophone Quebecers would be in the minority within their own province for the first time in 500 years.
This would displace Quebec from the center of power in Canada. Its official language, French, would be relegated to the same status as all languages and cultures other than English. Instead of being one of Canada’s two official languages, French would merely be one of many, and Quebec, no longer a nation, but a province like any other.
But wait: Journal authors further suggest that this was the grand plan of Prime Ministers Justin and Pierre Elliott Trudeau all along. In a very colorful column, “How the Trudeaus Drowned Quebec”, columnist Richard Martineau even compares the current PM to the protagonist of an infamous Stephen King novel:
“For Justin, Canada is not a country.
It is a hotel, an Airbnb.
And Quebec is just one of the many rooms in this vast real estate complex.
Room 237, here. Like the one in the movie The Shining.
Come, drop your bags and settle in! All we ask is that you pay your taxes.
It’s true that Trudeau Sr. paved the way for the reduction of Quebec’s power in Canada, but it didn’t start with his 1981 Charter of Rights, as the Journal claims. It actually began a decade earlier, in 1971, with the creation of Canada’s Official Multiculturalism Policy. The policy enshrined the idea that linguistic and cultural minorities in Canada should be encouraged to preserve their heritage, and allocated federal funding to help them do so.
Official multiculturalism was both a vote-getter for the Liberals and a means of diffusing the English-French “two solitudes” paradigm that was threatening to tear the country apart. At the time, Canada had just lived through the October Crisis of 1970, which had seen Trudeau invoke the War Measures Act in response to terrorist acts by the Front de Liberation du Quebec. Official multiculturalism was seen as a way to boost the federalist cause by aligning the interest of linguistic and cultural minorities within Quebec with those of the federal government.
The larger impact, however, was to enshrine multiculturalism outside Quebec, where most minorities settled, and where garnering favour with different cultural communities became standard operating procedure, particularly for the federal Liberal party. Immigration thus became a politically untouchable issue, except in Quebec, where the protection of the French language continued to take precedence over concerns for minority rights.
In an interview with media personality Mario Dumont, erstwhile leader of the Action Democratique du Quebec, TVA’s political analyst Emmanuelle Latraverse summed up the Quebec position:
“The place in Canada where [a high immigration level] is most talked about is in Quebec, because of the concerns that it raises around the protection of French, but… it is not only the question of French. Immigration levels have an impact on housing, on education, on access to social services, on the fabric of society, and it is healthy to have these discussions. The problem that Quebec is the only one to be concerned about it, and that in the rest of the country, for strictly electoral reasons, it is a big taboo.”
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