Doing the right thing
It was heartening to see the National Assembly yesterday unanimously condemn Yves Michaud, a prominent old-guard member of the Parti Quebecois, for his remarks about ethnic people in general and Jews in particular. Mr. Michaud, a former MNA who is running for the PQ's nomination in a by-election in Mercier riding, richly deserved the legislature's swift condemnation of his statements as categorically "unacceptable."
In a brazen echo of Jacques Parizeau's 1995 referendum-night scapegoating of "money and the ethnic vote," Mr. Michaud told Quebec's estates-general on language this week that the referendum's lopsided No vote in "immigrant" suburbs like Cote St. Luc exemplified how "ethnic votes are against the sovereignty of the Quebec people." Mr. Michaud made a distinction between "Quebecers" and Cote St. Luc residents who, even if he called them immigrants, are generally Canadian-born Jews. He equated "the Quebec people" exclusively with francophones.
That wasn't the 70-year-old Mr. Michaud's only display of xenophobia. Last week, in a radio interview on CKAC, he criticized Jews for suggesting that they "are the only people in the history of the world to suffer." When the B'nai Brith League for Human Rights complained, Mr. Michaud responded that members of that Jewish organization are "anti-Quebecer and anti-sovereignist extremists."
Members of the National Assembly are not the only ones this week to take the high road. The day before, the head of the estates-general, Gerald Larose, rebuked hard-line supporters of French-language rights who had heckled witnesses testifying before his panel in favour of linguistic flexibility. With trenchant wisdom, this close PQ associate said, "I have one sole message on which I would like us to be very, very clear. There is no future for Quebec if that Quebec does not build itself on solidarity."
This is not a time for critics of sovereignty to speculate cynically on the motives of Pequiste condemnations of intolerance. In the past, critics have urged the PQ to reject divisiveness, and it would have been hard for Premier Bouchard to do so more emphatically than he did yesterday in saying, "I deplore, I condemn and I dissociate myself totally" from Mr. Michaud's statements. As for Mr. Larose, only last month he violated the air of impartiality that behooves a chairman of the estates-general by openly deriding a witness who favoured English rights; now, he's is doing the right thing.
Bravo. May such a spirit of solidarity be more than a cosmetic. And may it last.
Source: Montreal Gazette, December 15, 2000.