I live in the western part of Montreal and one of the countless perks of living in that part of the city is to have the Montreal Suburban delivered to you doorstep every week.
The Suburban is the charming neighborhood weekly where as a young boy I could read Christy McCormick’s columns against minorities in the police force because being a white rich Anglo was what every one aspired to be or, not more than a few years ago, op-ed pieces calling for the creation of a provincial upper chamber where a majority of Anglophone members could keep the province’s French-dominated National Assembly in check.
It’s reading The Suburban that I learned that Arabs are a inherently violent people and that Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are generally grateful for the protection provided by the Israeli army from the mean extremists in their midst.
The Suburban is a little like a little bit of Fox News “juste pour nous autre“. As Stephen Colbert would put it: “well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiots” except that they are small-town and not well-intentioned at all.
Whenever anything resembling protection of the french language is mentioned, though, The Suburban has the ability to morph it’s paternalistic bigoted rhetoric into luminous righteousness. Pauline Marois‘ ill-conceived Identity Act that would require new immigrants to learn french before they could run for public office provided them with their latest opportunity.
“While politicians make political capital, wrote Beryl Wajsman, the Suburban’s editor, minorities — whether racial, linguistic or religious — suffer daily in Quebec. The message and metaphor of the struggle here is one of civil rights. Though the prejudice suffered here is not as draconian as in the American South in the sixties — thanks to federal protections we have here that were missing in the South — the damage is just as overt. (…) The message that is being propounded in Quebec, and expanded with the PQ’s latest proposal, is that this province is still wedded to “sang and langue”. Blood and language. “Ein volk! Ein Kultur!”
According to the C.D. Howe institute, in 2003 unilingual Anglophones in Quebec earned 15% more money than francophones who did not speak English. Non-Francophones, who represent 19% of Quebec’s population owned 33% of businesses in the province.
The Suburban has also been an opponent to bill 101, the law meant to create a single integrated school system for all Quebecers and championed the current Apartheid system that gives anglophones their own “separate but equal” schools.
All though it’s fair to oppose Pauline Marois‘ bill, I oppose it myself, I’m not sure the Civil Right metaphor is quite the right one, especially coming from the folks at the Suburban.