The past, present, and future of Québec (Part Two)
By Mark Wegierski
In the 1980s, one issue very rarely discussed was the situation of the approximately 20% (combined Anglophone -- persons whose first language is English -- and "Allophone" -- persons whose first language is neither English nor French) minorities in Quebec. Quebec Anglophones were practically the only minority group in Canada that were not encouraged to assert themselves vis-a-vis the majority community. Indeed, it could be argued that they were made to feel rather uncomfortable in a Quebec dominated by regnant Quebecois nationalism. This minority was at that time larger in absolute numbers than any comparable Francophone minority in English-speaking Canada, and percentage-wise, was second only to the Acadian French minority in fully and officially bilingual New Brunswick (35%). Ontario is only about 5% Francophone, but its administration moved to de facto bilingualism (with a wide range of government services and publications available in both official languages) as early as the 1970s, and became officially bilingual in the 1990s. Yet, in Quebec, it is illegal to put up a sign in English only, and the Protestant/English education system had for a long time been under pressure. The Quebec civil service in the 1980s employed virtually no Anglophones (a total of 1.6%), and even in the Quebec federal civil service, a similarly low ratio had existed. In Ontario, on the other hand, fully 5% of the provincial civil service was Francophone by the 1980s. (Figures cited by Peter Brimelow on p. 208 of The Patriot Game.)
One might well ask if this does not create some kind of disjunction in what claims to be a free and pluralistic society? Can one ever imagine equivalent measures being introduced by an English-Canadian Premier -- a legal, formal ban on public signs in languages other than English? It could be argued that Canada today is thus characterized by extensive coast-to-coast official bilingualism -- and official French unilingualism in Quebec itself.
Furthermore, it could be argued that the huge preponderance of Liberal seats in Quebec (apart from rare instances), has allowed for a skewing of the democratic process against the legitimate interests and desires of English-speaking Canada. Until the definite movement in Quebec federal voting patterns that began in 1993, it was difficult, if not impossible, for English-speaking Canada to elect a government in accord with the beliefs and interests of the majority of its inhabitants. As Brimelow has pointed out, English-speaking Canada, taken as a whole, has voted again and again for the Conservatives, only to find that the Liberal preponderance in Quebec gave the over-all federal victory to the Liberals.
In the case of a long-serving Liberal Prime Minister like Mackenzie King, and a Liberal Party that could be called “centre-traditionalist” or “traditionalist-centrist” – the consequences of Liberal government were more-or-less salubrious for most Canadians, and did not imply the revolutionary transformations of “regime-change”. However, from 1963 forward, the federal Liberal Party came under the spell of revolutionary-transformative ideas. Indeed, some have argued that Trudeau largely “hijacked” a “centre-traditionalist” Liberal Party as a vehicle for his agenda of radical, total transformation. In the years 1968 to 1980, it was indeed supremely important whether Trudeau’s party continued to win elections. Unlike some governments that come to power with modest goals, Trudeau’s every year in office was driven by a wide-ranging, thoroughgoing program of radical, total, social and cultural transformation. To the extent that Trudeau was able to so drastically alter the social and cultural environment, a situation was reached where the deep radicalism of the changes became mostly imperceptible to most persons, because something like the very nature of the perceived social, political, and cultural reality had shifted. Indeed, almost everyone in Canada now exists within Trudeau’s social, cultural, political, and juridical matrix – which some critics have termed “the Trudeaupia”.
Quebec continued to overwhelmingly vote for Trudeau over the five most critical federal elections of 1968, 1972, 1974, 1979, and 1980.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.