PIT STOP

Pit Stop - Oct

What language debate? Blog comments reflect a peaceful Quebec.

About three years ago I began blogging. This means I got myself an address on the Internet (anyone can do this in three easy steps) and started to post daily comments.

The major themes of these comments usually involve politics, morality and religion. I usually put these comments in the form of a question: Is Michael Ignatieff ready to be prime minister? Should lesbians conceive children? Is religion a hoax?

The records for my blog show that about 300 people check it out every day. But fewer than five per cent actually leave comments on my original postings. The most comments I ever had was 90 on whether Dr. Morgentaler should have received the Order of Canada.

I have had comments from as nearby as my neighbors in Westmount and as far away as South Korea and Latvia. The comments are generally informed and civil even when they deal with contentious subjects. Two of the most contentious are the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the language tensions in Quebec.

Because of the PQ’s language policies, one of my blogmates left the province and moved to the United States. He is still bitter and whenever Quebec comes up on my blog he makes no bones about his contempt for the province.

I bring this up now, not because I think this expatriate is typical of Quebecers on the language issue. The point is, I think he is atypical.

As Hubert Bach recently pointed out in a comprehensive article in The Gazette, there are signs all over the place that language peace has broken out in Quebec. One current example of that was the banning of two anglo bands from a Fête Nationale concert. Several artists in the sovereignist camp spoke out in protest. As a result, the two anglo bands participated in the concert. What a change that is from the time there were fights in the street about the Eaton’s apostrophe.

What seems to have replaced the bitterness in the language war of the late ’70s and ’80s is a realization that the accommodation between the two groups is working well for both. The French are more secure in their majority. The English are more comfortable as a minority.

This language peace is visible in the two national holidays that begin our summer. In both the Fête Nationale and Canada Day there is more fun and less politics. Instead of two duelling communities there is a sense of welcome all over the province.

Just imagine if Howard Galganov were to return from his exile in Ontario and tried his old game of fanning animosities. I don’t think he’d get far. That kind of demagoguery just doesn’t cut it here any more. There are, of course, a small group of angryphones remaining in the province, but they operate on the political fringes and are largely irrelevant.

Having said all that, the PQ option of separation for Quebecers is still on the books. PQ leader Pauline Marois has been doing her best to inject some life into that option. She has outlined a program to chip away at the federal system in the province by fighting to take various powers back from Ottawa, specifically in cultural affairs.

No sooner had Marois outlined her program than former premier Parizeau weighed in. Wouldn’t you know it. Parizeau has become a kind of frenchified Colonel Blimp. He told Marois she might provoke crises with Ottawa on a series of contentious issues.This would put the sovereignist troops on their metal.

So what happens? A few days after Parizeau’s ill-chosen remarks, the PQ was shut out in two by-elections, one of which they thought they could win.

Now we can take a break from politics at least until Labour Day. There are no constitutional questions buzzing around Ottawa, no referendums on the horizon in Quebec.

The Gazette caught the mood in a recent editorial on June 26: “Look around the world. There might be no place anywhere that manages diversity-in-unity as well as Quebec-inCanada. Where is it as easy to understand that there’s no need to choose between one sense of belonging and the other? In fact we do so well that we really need two days – or even the whole week in between – to celebrate how lucky we are.”

 Have a great summer.

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