The PI: The Right in Québec Gets Even More Crowded

with 35 comments

Ghislain Lebel and Pauline Marois

Former Bloc québécois MP and fringe candidate for the leadership of the Parti québécois, Ghislain Lebel, announced this week that he would be a candidate for the new Parti Indépendandiste in the next provincial election.

Disgusted by what he considers the PQ’s resignation on the issue of Québec independence, Lebel compared the PI’s youthful energy to the independence movement’s first modern political party, the Rassemblement pour l’Indépendance Nationale.

He is the second not-totally-unknown personality to publicly declare his support for the PI after playwright Victor Lévy Beaulieu who also said he would be a candidate in the next election.

The PI (say it in French, it’s slightly witty) is a new political party founded by frustrated and impatient sovereignists who don’t approve of Pauline Marois’ decision to take the obligation to hold a referendum out of the PQ’s platform.

The emergence of a new party was to be expected. Many feel – including the editorial board at AngryFrenchMedia Entreprises – that without a firm commitment to independence and some form of plan to achieve that goal, the Parti québécois loses it’s thing, it’s mojo, the very reason people actually care.

The new party is proposing a platform of classic “pur et dur” demands that have traditionally (until recently) been rejected by the PQ leadership: stronger language legislation, mandatory French Cegep and the referendum election. These ideas did have their defenders in the PQ brass, though, so the soul of the PI, the organizations identity and what values the party would represent beyond specific issues, was still to be determined.

Now we know, and it’s not pretty.

Victor Lévy Beaulieu is a hothead who recently called Pauline Marois a traitor for suggesting that Québec schools do a better job of teaching English as a second language and who also threatened to burn all his books in support of independence. I don’t know of many intellectuals in the world who are as comfortable as he is manipulating the symbols of ignorance and censure.

Ghislain Lebel quit the Bloc québécois for what he called it’s failure to defend “traditional nationalism”. “They cleared out our history”, he said. “In order to win over cultural communities it’s ethnicity zero, religion zero.”

When he declared his candidacy, Lebel made it abundantly clear that ethnicity and identity were his driving force. “Prisoners in this concept of civic nationalism, a thing that never crossed even Machiavelli’s mind, a theory of thought, crafted by patently mercenary thinkers, there is nothing better to cajole minorities than to clear out all belonging to an identity for which French-Canadians (sic) will necessarily pay the price.”

Twice in his declaration (or google’s approximation of English) Lebel made references to the Rassemblement pour l’Indépendance Nationale and it’s historical leader Pierre Bourgault.

Well… Considering how the RIN’s left-wing ideas and internationalist perspective used to turn off “traditional nationalists”, that might not have been the best possible comparison. In fact, traditionalist nationalists long resisted joining the RIN and even tried to have their own right-wing party called the Parti Républicain du Québec. It is only reluctantly that they joined the RIN and later the PQ.

As for Pierre Bourgault, the RIN’s most charismatic leader was what his biographer Jean-François Nadeau called the independence movement’s least nationalist spokesperson. As Bourgault himself said: “It is not by their origin that the Québécois define themselves, but by their collective aspirations.”

The new Parti Indépendantiste is not a new RIN. It is a new Parti Républicain, perhaps an Alliance Laurentienne. It can’t claim “social-democracy” and modernity and then and associate themselves with people who represent everything the RIN and Pierre Bourgault stood against.

With candidates like Lebel and Beaulieu, the PI now flows from the same traditionalist, reactionary and nationalist source that already feeds the Action démocratique du Québec and the Québec wing of the Conservative party of Canada.

Sadly, that’s already a very crowded place in Québec, today.

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 9, 2008 at 12:48 pm

35 Responses

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  1. Well, at least the PI are consistent… Here is the party’s candidate for the May 12 byelection in the riding of Hull:


    May 9, 2008 at 1:05 pm

  2. With much of population growth due to immigration and 90% of immigrants rejecting separation. I don’t think Quebec will ever be a country.

    We had our chance in 1995… we lost it…

    quebecois separatiste

    May 9, 2008 at 4:28 pm

  3. You still do have a chance, but not it the trend of openess towards immigrants is reversed. Since ’95, support for independance has increased among allophones, while it has decreased among francophones. Anglophones, of course, are more or less irrelevent to the equation, for now.

    I don’t know if the right was already crowded. The independance vote was already being split by the PQ and QS, the anglo vote by the Libs and AQ, the allophone vote by the Libs and PQ (maybe others), the fringe leftist vote by the Greens and QS. So let ADQ have some competition among the nationalist right.


    May 9, 2008 at 8:59 pm

  4. Oh yea, QS, do 90% of immigrants reject independance? I thought it was more of a 70/30 split, or thereabouts.

    Of course, it depends on what qualifies as an immigrant. I doubt that 90% of people who immigrated to Quebec as children and attended french school would be against it, but I’m really not sure. I haven’t seen any polls lately.


    May 9, 2008 at 9:03 pm

  5. I remember seeing a study a couple of years ago stating that about 40% of the children of immigrants that went throught French education (which should be all of them…) were in favor of independance.


    May 10, 2008 at 8:33 am

  6. I do not believe Pure Laines. They defend only the right to keep welfare forever. A good BS is actually the centre of Quebec independance, culter and language.Now welfare is high and everybody support federalists. Try to cut it and you will see what will happen.How you explain me that all (100%) my friends of Quebecer origin in Montreal are on welfare not for months but for years. And they are not handicapped.
    All 100% of immigrants do not suuport Qubec separatism, We just want to work.

    quebec new immigrant

    May 11, 2008 at 4:55 am

  7. Exactly. There are plenty of people named Harvey, Johnson, Blackburn, Reid, MacFadden, etc. who are in favour of independence today, so I don’t see why there wouldn’t be people named Nguyen or Hassan thinking the same way eventually.

    Actually… some of them are already present: Kotto, Barbot, Mourani.

    And most of the ones you see in politics at the moment didn’t even grow up in the Quebec francophone school system. The kids being socialized as Québécois in the French-language school system today will be even closer in mindset to the francophone majority.


    May 11, 2008 at 5:43 am

  8. When I was a teen my only friend who actually paid his 5$ and became a member of the Bloc québécois was Shaffin who’s parents were from the pakistani diaspora of Rwanda and Uganda.

    I guess the Equality party and The Suburban’s accusations of “ethnic cleasing” rang a little false to someone who had experienced the real thing.


    May 11, 2008 at 9:56 am

  9. I always surprised people when I told them that my american mother was in favour of Quebec’s independence… Although I did see, the other day, a classe d’accueil where the children of new immigrants go to learn French where the teacher was teaching history and saying “quebec wants to separate because there are many natural riches here and they don’t want to share. We immigrants are against this.” I was surprised, to say the least.


    May 11, 2008 at 11:03 am

  10. Stronger language legislation? What’s next? Prohibition to speak English in public places, no English labels or manuals, no English television, newspapers and so on?


    May 11, 2008 at 12:30 pm

  11. You really should change it to ‘Angry French-speaking guy’.


    May 12, 2008 at 10:07 am

  12. That’s right QS , you had your chance ( by cheating) in 1995 and you still lost. ( it would be so interesting to open up those “rejected ballots” in the three heavily populated “No” ridings to see in reality, by how much more you actually lost.)
    Oh well, keep brainwashing all the new immigrants with your dribble, and some day…..maybe you might get it. Be careful what you wish for though! As an aside, you actually lost it on the Plains of Abraham.

    Guy Gadbois

    May 14, 2008 at 7:50 pm

  13. I think that the Plains of Abraham and everything surrounding it (Treaty of Paris, etc.) should be the Canadian version of Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies:

    I mean, whenever someone comes up short of logical arguments in discussions with francophones, they’ll inevitably trot out: “well, you guys lost the war after all”…

    Also interesting here is that we have a guy named Gadbois (presuming it’s his real name) saying “YOU GUYS lost the war”! Hmmm…


    May 15, 2008 at 8:09 am

  14. “Oh well, keep brainwashing all the new immigrants with your dribble”

    I forgot to mention that this comment is terribly condescending towards “new immigrants”, implying that they are not even astute enough to make up their own minds on these types of issues.

    If anything, immigrants to Quebec these days are more exposed to both sides of the story than they have ever been in history.


    May 16, 2008 at 8:57 am

  15. “mandatory French Cegep ”

    That means that if those extremists would have been in power, I could not have gotten to English Cegep where 50% of the clientèle was French speaking first and wanted to get out of there with good decent English.

    Is that such an evil sin to master 2 languages for the PI???

    Tym Machine

    May 16, 2008 at 10:35 am

  16. “Oh well, keep brainwashing all the new immigrants with your dribble”

    I will refer you here to my earlier comment about my experience in a class for new immigrants where they were explicitly told that “We immigrants are against separation” and other such things.


    May 16, 2008 at 8:55 pm

  17. @SM,

    It is probably because as péquiste leader Jacques Parizeau tried to explain his “money and ethnic vote” blooper that immigrants have not been properly explained separation, sovereignty, independance, secession or what not.

    And in 1995, Canada naturalized you canadians too fast to understand this (for this one, I will partially agree with the statement though when you look at all the rejected ballot by the yes side poll managers, to me all in all it cancels each other out).



    Tym Machine

    May 17, 2008 at 2:13 pm

  18. @Guy Gadbois,

    With such a name weren’t your ancestors on the French side?



    Tym Machine

    May 17, 2008 at 2:14 pm

  19. @Rorybellows,

    “I don’t know if the right was already crowded. The independance vote was already being split by the PQ and QS, the anglo vote by the Libs and AQ, the allophone vote by the Libs and PQ (maybe others), the fringe leftist vote by the Greens and QS. So let ADQ have some competition among the nationalist right.”

    Don’t forget Affiliation Quebec which will eventually separate the West Island anglo vote
    coming from the liberal party unless they fear that PQ is going to take power in which case they will vote for PLQ anyways. (you may discard ADQ from the equation since anglo already find them irrelevant)

    Don’t forget also independant candidates which may shuffle the cards as well. You might also add a box for “none of the above”, a move which I definitely would support.

    Tym Machine

    May 17, 2008 at 2:17 pm

  20. @Anonymous:

    “Stronger language legislation? What’s next? Prohibition to speak English in public places, no English labels or manuals, no English television, newspapers and so on?”

    You sure bet but only for French speakers though.

    As Maka Kotto wants put it, we French Quebeckers should answer English questions in French only, talk about open mindness coming from an immigrant who comes from a language divided country (English and French as well), Cameroon.

    Tym Machine

    May 17, 2008 at 2:19 pm

  21. If Mr. Kotto and those who support him want Francos to answer English questions in French, perhaps such a policy might be supplemented by asking the same people to answer Anglos’ French questions in French too. I am in the habit of addressing strangers in Québec in (lightly accented and not always grammatically perfect) French, and I have on occasion encountered French speakers who jump over to English as soon as they hear me talk. In many cases when this happens, I detect that my interlocutor is doing so as a means of maintaining his/her reserve, so I just continue along in English. It doesn’t much matter to me which language I use as long as I can communicate, but all of this does show me that there is some ambivalence in Québec when it comes to the language divide, and that it is one thing to legislate an official language and quite another to get people to speak it on the street.


    May 17, 2008 at 5:55 pm

  22. @littlerob

    You’re absolutely true about this condescending attitude that some of us have. Although some don’t mean it that way.

    Actually, you can say it’s a friendly gesture whereas on the other hand it may send the wrong message which is “Look at how I can master my second language (English) better than you can in yours.”

    Best regards,

    Tym Machine

    Tym Machine

    May 18, 2008 at 12:05 am

  23. Littlerob:

    It’s not ambivalence, it’s a culturally-ingrained inferiority complex.


    May 18, 2008 at 8:06 pm

  24. Tym Machine/Acajack: I don’t think that any of the things the two of you posit are necessarily mutually exclusive. In my experience, most people “code switch” for more than one reason.

    I am still learning to pick my way across the language minefield called Greater Montréal. It ain’t easy. While any Franco can tell within ten seconds after I open my mouth that I am an Anglo, my French is still good enough to fake out some Allophones, and I have had the experience of discovering that a person whom I talked to in French for a day was in fact more comfortable in English. Just another Anglo doing his small part to acculturate another immigrant to the French language. Only in Québec…


    May 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm

  25. Littlerob:

    Yes, it is true that there can also be in some cases an exclusionary aspect to the phenomenon. In the sense that they’re speaking to you in English to remind you that you’re not “part of the gang”, of the “nous”, and ultimately to keep you out of it I guess.

    But I’d say this isn’t really that widespread. It’s still mostly the inferiority complex thing in my opinion, coupled with the fact that a small minority of anglo customers (some residents of Quebec and some just passing through I realize) are quite rude (and sometimes even freak out) when not served in their language. So many people just switch to English automatically to avoid a potential meltdown. I know this is dumb, because an anglo who starts off in French isn’t likely to cause a scene if he’s not served in English… but hey, human nature is bizarre that way sometimes.


    May 20, 2008 at 10:37 am

  26. Looks as if the methods that Victor-Lévy Beaulieu used in his recent critique of the Governor General aren’t playing all that well among Québecois of Haitian descent, judging from the article in today’s La Presse online.

    I can’t help thinking that he could have made the same point just as forcefully without (repeatedly) injecting race into his argument.


    May 24, 2008 at 7:48 am

  27. The political landscape in Quebec is a joke. You can only choose between crazed nationalists or callous neoliberals, and that’s no choice at all.


    May 24, 2008 at 6:32 pm

  28. @littlerob,

    The n word in French also refers to slavery of people.

    Far from me the idea of trying to justify any of VLB language, he is pretty good at that but VLB likes to maintain ambiguity in his speeches and likes to divide and conquer.

    While we’re at it, VLB just gets what he wants, media attention and that will certain give him a hand in an eventual election where he will face Mr Reasonnable accomodations himself, Mario Dumont that he once publically supported in last provincial election in his quest to become one of the first PI member of the legislative assembly of Quebec (I don’t see it coming though).

    Look for other political coups from VLB in the coming nearby future.

    Tym Machine

    May 26, 2008 at 10:37 pm

  29. Tym–The late comic Lenny Bruce once did a bit called Blah Blah Blah in which he talked about his being arrested for saying a dirty word on stage during his act. Bruce described his trial as follows:

    “Swear the heat in: ‘Your honor, he said blah blah blah.’

    The judge: ‘He said blah blah blah?!’

    Then the cop really yenta’ed it up: ‘That’s right! I couldn’t believe it! In front of women, a mixed audience, he said blah blah blah!’

    The judge: ‘This I never heard, blah blah blah.’

    Then they dug something: they sort of liked saying blah blah blah! Cause they said it a few extra times. It got so people were talking, and the bailiff was yelling, ‘shut up, you blah blah blah!'”

    The story in La Presse left me with the impression that VLB, too, sort of likes saying blah blah blah.


    May 27, 2008 at 4:55 am

  30. And after all the talk, very few English-speaking persons in Quebec and only marginally more French-speaking ones will have bothered to read VLB in L’aut’journal and Pierre Falardeau in Le Québécois a few days later, who happen to be the only ones who have actually read anticolonialist writers such as Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, Amilcar Cabral, Aimé Césaire and Thomas Sankara.

    There are those who try to get informed before they speak, and then there are the other pretended leftists who pathetically label “right-wing” or “racist” anything that could appear politically incorrect to weak minds who cannot decode propaganda by themselves.

    This behaviour gives them a good Catholic conscience and allows them to continue thinking they are right not to have radical opinions and therefore avoid being defamed in the mass media.

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