QUEBEC—English Canada’s media are guilty of “pathetic” and unfair coverage of the Parti Quebecois’ controversial minorities plan, according to a former Quebec premier.
Also this week, a current cabinet minister took to Twitter to condemn the Anglo fourth estate.
The complaints come amid a furor over an impending plan by the PQ government to restrict public employees’ right to wear religious clothing.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, ex-premier and former PQ leader Bernard Landry said he can’t accept some of the complaints directed at the Quebecois.
“It’s infuriating, but it’s so pathetic to go and say that Quebec is xenophobic and racist, when from the start of our national adventure we intermingled with Amerindians,” Landry said.
“The majority of us have Amerindian roots, one-quarter of us have Irish roots, we have had six premiers of Irish origin. What are these people talking about? Why are they so misinformed in the rest of Canada?
“The Bloc Quebecois elected the first Latino to the Parliament of Canada. They should open their eyes.”
Landry also said that the rest of Canada will one day “deeply regret” having embraced the doctrine of multiculturalism.
He said it leads to a lack of integration that harms social cohesion and, pointing to Europe, he says that ultimately risks feeding right-wing extremist politics over time.
“Multiculturalism will lead to more and more problems, like in Great Britain. In Holland, in Germany, same thing. Angela Merkel came out against this doctrine a while ago. Immigrants themselves are the first victims of multiculturalism,” he said.
“The rule is, when you change country, you change country. They can’t expect to find everything here that they had in their country of origin. Integration is a powerful signal that they need to adjust to a new nation. And the majority of them do it wonderfully.”
There’s some research, however, that suggests Canada’s approach to integrating immigrants has worked comparably well.
The most recent international Migrant Integration Policy Index placed Canada at No. 3, behind Sweden and Portugal, by using 148 criteria to measure successful integration.
Proposal Could Become Law
The PQ says it will put forward its Charter of Quebec Values within several weeks, and seek to get it through the legislature.
A leaked version of the proposal says the government would bar public employees from wearing religious clothing such as turbans, kippas, hijabs, and visible crucifixes.
The plan, which critics have called unconstitutional, may have enough support to be adopted in the legislature. The opposition Coalition Avenir Quebec says it would support parts of the plan, although it would apply the rules to far fewer public-sector workers.
The idea has majority public support in Quebec, according to polls, but it’s far from clear that such support would translate into more votes for the PQ.
Landry, 76, who was briefly premier after he replaced the retiring Lucien Bouchard in 2001, isn’t the only Pequiste to criticize the Anglo-Canadian media.
The province’s Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier, who is also the minister of “sovereigntist governance,” on Tuesday used Twitter to take a swipe at opinion pieces published in the Calgary Herald and National Post.
“Being called a xenophobe by the Calgary Herald,” he said, in remarks he repeated about the National Post. “Once again, a lack of perspective and understanding from the ROC.”
However, it’s not only Anglo pundits blasting the PQ proposal.
Although French editorials have been less unanimous than their Anglo counterparts on the subject, numerous columns, most notably in Montreal La Presse, have denounced the plan.
A piece Tuesday titled “The Tyranny of the Majority” by La Presse’s chief editorial writer called it an extreme measure that smacks of intolerance. He compared it to Maurice Duplessis’ persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A column in the same newspaper last week compared the PQ approach to McCarthyism and pointed out the government’s inconsistency in preaching state secularism while keeping the crucifix in the legislature.
‘Unleashing dangerous passions’
A pair of representatives from minority organizations interviewed Tuesday expressed concern about the direction Quebec politics was headed.
David Ouellette, spokesman for the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said things got tense a few years ago due in part to sensationalistic media coverage within Quebec.
That news coverage created political pressure, amid which the then-Charest Liberal government created a commission to explore minority accommodations.
“Certain media milked it with very tempestuous and virulent declarations during the commission’s hearings, which created a climate of uncertainty for minorities in Quebec,” said Ouellette, who was interviewed before Landry’s comments were publicly reported and who declined later to react to them.
“Why is the government reviving this debate and unleashing dangerous passions?”
Mukhbir Singh, a spokesman for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, says community members in Montreal are genuinely concerned about the PQ proposal and the direction the province is headed in—especially because it comes on the heels of the short-lived Quebec turban ban in soccer.
“I think we’re seeing a progression here that’s worrying everyone,” said Singh, the organization’s vice-president for Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
Some federal politicians have also weighed in to blast the plan, including Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.
With files from The Canadian Press