[Point de vue de Gérard Bouchard] In defense of Quebecers
The author is a historian, sociologist, writer, lecturer in history, sociology, anthropology, political science and international cooperation programs at the University of Quebec, and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Collective Imaginaries.
A new wave of ideas is gaining momentum in Quebec. It is radical leftist, wokist loyalty thinking that equates our entire past with a vast colonial and racist enterprise based on exclusionary, sexist white supremacy. The main victims would be Aboriginal people, but also women, immigrants and minorities of all kinds. We would have seen the same brutality and abuse of power in former Quebec as among our American neighbors and other colonial nations. Quebecers are called upon to profoundly redefine their memories and identities, structuring them around guilt and shame.
If this thought takes place, we see what will happen. It would be impossible for us to maintain a positive self-image, we would no longer find inspiration in our past, and we would have to give up any search for collective pride. Our debt of atonement will now supersede the dreams and projects of liberation that we think are permanently rooted in our history, our national struggles.
The values that seem to lift us up (equality, democracy, justice, etc.) would reveal their true nature: facade strategies, false speeches aimed at hiding our mistakes and deceiving the Other. Virtue would no longer have a place in our national imagination. Our deepest desires will lose their legitimacy.
We must admit that this chart contains its share of truth, but it takes enormous liberties with the facts and is notably lacking in nuance. First of all, it is important to remember that our society (the former “Canadian”) was born and raised under colonial rule, by France and then by the British. Because of this, he experienced the harsh experience of racism, hatred and isolation for a long time, which left him in a position of inferiority.
With Quebec still suffering from embarrassing dependencies on the federal system, it took a lot of collective energy to make a recovery that was not yet complete. Should we apologize for the sympathy inspired by the relentless struggles of a small nation shattered by history and avoid the challenges it still faces?
The facts also teach us our share of responsibility for the fate of Aboriginal peoples, and it is no small one. I think above all about how our industrialization has contributed to the destruction of the hunting grounds that are the backbone of their communities. I also think about the very degrading image that a large part of our elites – the leading clergy – have long projected of Aboriginal people in propaganda, teaching, literature and the media.
This resulted in various forms of discrimination and humiliation that we deplore today (they added to the horrors of federal politics we know so well). Nor should we forget the Church’s involvement in the Indian residential school system. In short, much work needs to be done to fulfill this great legacy.
Again, we must add the practice of forced sterilization of indigenous women in Quebec (already confirmed for the rest of Canada) between 1980 and 2019, newly discovered by researchers at the University of Quebec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. . We see that the Quebecers also gave their due to colonialism.
That is, as for the responsibility for these shortcomings, is it not appropriate to release the majority of the people who have been doubly ruled from inside and outside for a long time? Do we not find inspiring episodes, generous and courageous actors in the history of Quebec? What about the displaced, women, workers? From those leading vanguard battles for democracy and social justice? Or efforts to make our society the most egalitarian, lowest-poverty society in America?
As for male dominance, it enters a different register than the colonial one we’re talking about here. In this regard, our society relies on rules and practices that are traditionally unjust and reprehensible, but which have always prevailed in almost all human societies. This neither mitigates nor excuses the wrong committed and the consequential liability, but it is unfair to instruct an anachronistic court here. It will be known that our society has tried to correct its ways and developed in the right direction. Of course, there is still more, but why ignore the work that has been done?
We can expand the scope of this note. Over the past few decades, driven by worthy leaders and movements, our society has made significant strides in respect for human rights. The situation of all disadvantaged social categories has improved: the situation of women (and children), immigrants and minorities, the situation of the disabled. On the Aboriginal side, we have been witnessing a new consciousness for some time – a recognition that Aboriginal peoples are strongly favored by their own movement. Undeniable progress was also observed here, including the formation of a more positive image of these nations in the population.
These advances, however, remain very insufficient. The movement of openness towards the marginalized and the underprivileged must continue and even gain momentum. On some fronts, our society owes a debt of repair, which requires developing a sense of collective responsibility and connectedness among the entire population. But this requires creating favorable tendencies, justice and desire to act. It would also be useful to situate this enterprise in the continuity of past struggles, rather than in contempt of them.
However, this desire, this need for commitment, this desire for reparation, reconstruction and progress, is compromised by the rise of a radical and deceptive discourse of guilt, shame and disgrace, capable of destroying our legitimate grounds for pride. This is only a conversation that sows conscience, resentment, self-loathing and paralysis. Only thorns grow in this kind of soil.