AngryFrenchGuy

Amir Khadir: A One Man Socialist-Separatist Coalition

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khadir

So who the hell is this Dr. Amir Khadir, you ask?

He is the immigrant-born, partly McGill-educated, leader of Québec’s newest sovereigntist party and now the first second Muslim ever elected to the National Assembly of Québec.

That’s quite a brainful for you, isn’t it, Canada?

Born in Teheran, Iran, Dr. Khadir immigrated to Québec with his parents at the age of 10.  He is a practicing physician at Le Gardeur Hospital and the co-spokesperson of Québec Solidaire, a small progressive party born of the left wing of the Parti québécois, the lukewarm remains of the Québec NDP and the typical rainbow coalition of hippies, communists, university professors, vegans and failed artists who, in other countries, support Ralph Nader and Jack Layton.

Oh, and he might also be a slightly nutty conspiracy theorist and, according to columnist Pierre Foglia, the Northern Hemisphere’s most far left politician.

In other words, a protest vote, right?  A freak disfunction of our British Parliamentary system, no doubt.

And yet… and yet…

Amir Khadir is all that, but he is also a genuinely well-liked man who’s been working very hard at the fringes of Québec’s political spectrum.  In Québec, a province where all three leaders of the Liberals, the PQ and the ADQ are career politicians who have never had real jobs, someone like Dr. Khadir, who has lead Médecin du Monde missions in Iraq and the Palestinian occupied territories, and who went to work at his hospital on the morning after his election, commands sincere admiration and respect.

In fact, he just might be Québec’s most charismatic politician since René Lévesque.  (Sorry, the Justin Trudeau thing isn’t working here…)

With Québec Solidaire’s co-leader Françoise David, Dr. Khadir has already performed a small miracle in uniting Québec’s far left into a coherent, if not plausible, progressive alternative.

A dream for sure, but a presentable dream.  Something solid enough to receive the support of Claude Béland, the former president of Québec’s biggest financial institution, le Mouvement Desjardins, and of Julius Grey, the eminent lawyer who has punched more holes in Bill 101 than any other living person.

It takes quite a man to unite a banker and an Anglo-rights activist in a party dedicated to Québec’s political independence…

Such is the curious but exciting mix of Québec Solidaire, a scrappy coalition of dreamers, feminists and social activists, including a respectable share of Anglos and minorities, united behind the general idea of a progressive and independent Québec.

Kind of like the Party Québécois before it forgot WHY it wanted Québec to be an independent country.

Of course, with 4% of the province-wide vote and a single MNA, it doesn’t cost much to Support Québec Solidaire.  Dr. Khadir might have convinced a dozen or so small left wing parties to temporarily put aside their differences over the interpretation of resolution 17.b of the IVth International Socialist Conference on proto-structural gender role-bias in a post-consumer society and unite under the single banner of Québec Solidaire for now, but we’ll see how long that coalition holds once he has to actually vote on legislation in the National Assembly.

Cynics will no doubt keep reminding the good doctor that, although he may claim to speak for the poor and disenfranchised, he was actually elected by the quite well off bobos of the Plateau.

Nor is he done explaining what he meant in 2006 when he said that he was not ready to ‘reject’ the various conspiracy theories claiming that the World Trade Center was an inside job.

Still,  few people ever thought that Amir Khadir’s unlikely coalition would hold together as long as it it did in the first place.  It will be interesting to see how well he will be able to use his increased visibility and credibility as an MNA.

One thing’s for sure, it’s been a while since anybody in Québec has been this enthousiastic about a politician.  At least since Barack Obama…

Written by angryfrenchguy

December 13, 2008 at 7:01 pm

93 Responses

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  1. @ AM:

    Absolutely, urban landscapes are constantly evolving afterall. In fact, a similar situation happened to our own Little Italy.
    Demographically, Toronto’s Little Italy (on College) used to be very Italian 30 years ago, however, nowadays it is largely populated by people of Portuguese descent, even though College Street itself is still lined up with Italian restaurants and holds on to its Italian flavour. The majority of Italian immigrants moved north and created Corso Italia (on St. Clair) which it turn has been largely populated by Asians and other nationalities. Today, Woodbridge harbours the majority of Italians in the GTA and is hopefully the last destination to their third northward succession.

    When it comes to New York, I think Bensonhurst is now the de-facto Little Italy.

    Cancerous

    December 20, 2008 at 2:29 pm

  2. AFG :

    Thanks for the link. Have you ever interviewed Khadir?

    gcl

    December 20, 2008 at 2:49 pm

  3. Bruce:

    > What is “Nationalism” doing for the planet we live on as of today??
    Nationalism, like most other ideologies, can do good and can do bad. Really, what “nationalism” really is, ultimately, is the sentiment that the “nation” you belong to is an important defining factor in your identity. The same way, being a “feminist” means that your experience of womanhood, shared with other women, is a defining factor in your identity. And I must admit that being a Quebecer has a strong influence on my identity. (It doesn’t define me entirely, of course.)

    > Is NATIONALISM (as in, — “WE were always ’sovereign’ to begin with”)
    > in Québec not pretty ETHNIC, based on a ‘tribe’ descended from the
    > 6,000 or 7,000 colons français of the 17th century?
    There are ethnic nationalists in Quebec, but most Quebec nationalists aren’t obsessed by ethnicity. The Quebec nation isn’t defined as “French-Canadian”, it’s culturally defined, and anyone of any ethnic background who comes to Quebec can be part of the Quebec nation.

    > Even if those of you who cling to the “beleaguered tribe” concept did
    > achieve 50% plus one vote … (which I would argue is not really enough
    > in a single emotional instant in time to deprive FOR ALL TIME the
    > OTHER 50% minus one vote of their dreams of continuing to be part of a
    > larger idea, open to the world.) … would it really be WORTH the
    > bitterness to follow?? A Pyrrhic situation and a big rather brief
    > orgasm for some, I suppose!
    And why don’t you think that an independent Quebec can be “part of a larger idea” and especially “open to the world”? It’s clear to me that it can, and I’m not even really a sovereigntist.

    > In ROC we don’t talk of “nationalists”, because we aren’t. Perhaps a
    > minority, no more than 37.8% of actual voters (for the Tories) at the
    > extreme outside, which is only 21.8% of eligible Cdn voters. Not an
    > impressive number of “Nationalists” in Canada today!
    Canadian nationalism does exist, and it’s not only the ideology of the Conservatives (which I can see you dislike and try to pin what you don’t like about Canada on them). The idea of Canadian multiculturalism, this idea that Canada is this place where people from all around the world can come to live in peace and freedom while keeping their cultural traditions, is Canadian nationalist propaganda. And by this I do not mean that it’s wrong, Canada — including Quebec — is actually a pretty good place to immigrate to and live in. But this is how many Canadians like to see themselves, define themselves, and differentiate themselves from Americans. (And in many cases define themselves as better than Americans.) True or not, it’s still nationalist propaganda, and from your posts it’s obvious that you buy into it completely.

    And in all honesty it’s an ideology that’s harmful to Quebec, and I can also see this in your posts. Why? Because it denies the reality of a Quebec nation existing in French but still based not on ethnicity, but rather open to people of many cultures. It’s obvious from your posts, where you speak about the French heritage of this country, and how you think the French language is so important for Canada, and point out that only in Canada (not in the US) has the French-Canadian population been allowed to keep its language and culture, that your focus is on how Canadian multiculturalism can help the culture of the French-Canadian minority remain alive and be part of Canadian identity. But the thing is that today most francophone Quebecers do not seem themselves as members of the French-Canadian minority. We’re a multiethnic society that has been started by French-Canadians (that’s why we speak French today), but that isn’t owned by French-Canadians today. You’ve got someone of non-French-Canadian ancestry and whose first language is not even French (Antonio) telling you all these things, and you still don’t see it.

    That, I believe, is one of the main problems with Quebec/rest of Canada relations today. Many, probably most Quebecers consider that Quebec is a multiethnic society where French is the common language, while the rest of Canada is a multiethnic society where English is the common language. Even anglophone Quebecers are today much more bilingual than they were in the past, and many recognize the fact that while they are a linguistic minority, they are still part of the Quebec nation. In the rest of Canada, though, the idea seems to be that the French language is still synonymous with being French-Canadian. Yes, you’ve said that you try to promote French in Southwestern Ontario; I’m sure you’d like every Canadian to be able to speak French. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter. The rest of Canada is an English-language society, not a bilingual society. Yes, there are francophones living there, but they are a minority, and they should (and in almost all cases do) know the common language of their society, i.e. English. Quebecers accept that, as long as you accept the fact that Quebec society works in French and that it’s going to be the common language of all ethnic groups here.

    Yes, I’m sure you’ll say you accept this and this is why you try to promote French everywhere in Canada. But you still try to impute some ethnic or tribal justification to Quebec nationalism. I see this a lot: Quebec politicians talk about something language-related, for example compulsory francisation of immigrants, and they’re decried in the rest of the country as ethnocentric and/or racist. The fact is English Canadians cannot seem to separate from their minds the idea of the French-language from the French-Canadian ethnic group. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason why you’re so pro-French is to celebrate the contributions of French-Canadians to our country, not necessarily because in a part of the country, it is the common and sole official language. But guess what: I don’t want my people’s purpose in Canada to be some sort of folkish image of “French-Canadians”. And I especially don’t want it to serve to differentiate Canadian society from American society. I also see this in your posts: in the US these little French-Canadians had to assimilate in the melting pot, while here in good Canada we allowed them to keep their language and culture and we’re even helping them defend it. But it’s condescending to francophones, dismissive of current Quebec society which is very different from what the folkish image of French-Canadian society would suggest, and insulting to Americans as well. Given your obvious disdain of American society, you can’t claim not to be a nationalist. You obviously are a Canadian nationalist, even if you don’t like the term.

    And yes, there is a difference between Canadian and American societies. Even if we discount Quebec, there is a difference between English Canadian society (which I mean to include all the ethnic and cultural groups in English Canada, even the francophones) and American society, but I may not be the best one to talk about it. But Bruce’s comment about how this difference is that Canada elects “socialist” governments and favours social services and likes to go on peacekeeping missions (which isn’t even really accurate, Canada, with its underfunded army, hadn’t been able to do much peacekeeping for many years even if Canadians still buy this propaganda) while the US is dog-eat-dog and enjoys invading foreign countries to defend its corporate interests misses the mark completely. Sure, that’s what left-wing English Canadians like to tell themselves about how their country is better than the US while claiming not to espouse any nationalistic feelings. But it’s wrong, English Canada and the US are both very disparate (and mostly good, I must say) societies.

    Basically, my point is that francophone (and many non-francophone) Quebecers do not see themselves as an ethnic branch of Canadian society, and especially do not want to serve as a “justification” for the Canadian difference. They see themselves as a complementary society to anglophone Canadian society, with a different culture but an equal emphasis on being multiethnic and open. Some Quebecers think this obviously leads to being their own independent country, some others think it doesn’t. But they don’t really care about all this French-Canadian stuff, and preservation of their language and culture… well, we’re past that; it’s still good for francophones elsewhere in the country but we’re at the point of sharing it with newcomers.

    Marc

    December 21, 2008 at 3:37 am

  4. Marc!

    Wow! (maybe you should be midnightmarc, like midnightjack)

    Anyhow thanks for the extensive post.

    Please take note that in none of my posts have I ever used the hyphenated ‘ethnic’ term that current Québécois society doesn’t favor using for itself. You attribute that term to the thinking of ROC people towards Quebec, but anyone here who is “au courante’ uses “Québécois.”

    Obviously francophones outside of Quebec can’t use that term, so need something …franco-ontariens, etc,

    Of course franco-ontariens need to be bilingual! It is for sure harder to live in French outside of Québec although many manage to do so with determination and with available tools including francophone schools and media services.

    I doubt that knowledgeable ROC ers ‘decry’ the francisation of immigrants coming to Quebec. It is obvious that such a policy is absolutely essential.

    I don’t find such a policy a “racist” thing, even if you can always find outbursts from ignorant individuals.

    Politicians are one thing, but educated citizens and opinion leaders are another, and since ROC likes immigrants to be able to keep their culture and identity, why would it be any different for Québec, one of the two founding nations of Canada?

    Ordinary Canadians are, at least in plurality or majority, fair minded and tolerant, the more so because they have come from all over the world, and have experienced the problems of “nationalistic” conflicts in the “nationalistic” countrys they left behind..

    They value that Canada is a more “civic” kind of ethos.

    While Upper Canada was settled by British, that ‘ethnic’ stock is no longer in a majority, and English ancestry counts for very little in the scheme of things now a days, and increasingly less so as time goes by.

    What counts is hard work, effort, integrity and a desire to contribute to a fair and reasonably just, balanced and tolerant society.

    Ditto I am sure for Québec, within a French linguistic ocntext.

    My critique is that you insist that an independant nation can have only one official language. And Canada has two, whereas an independent Québec would have only one. But Québec as a society within Canada already only has ONE, and has all the reasonable powers there to promote that.

    The NOTWITHSTANDING clause allows for all the provisions of Bill 101, including strenghening it as required, and what is REQUIRED is the will of Quebec
    authorities to make those provisions work. ROC does not elect anyone to your National Assembly!

    Many commentators here say that an independent country would prevent Quebec from being swallowed in a North American sea of nearly 400 million English speakers.

    If that were only true!

    But, independent or not it could still be linguistically swallowed, just as surely, as long as English dominates as the global communication system, and as long as USA has the ‘hegemony’ position in the world. They call the shots, not Canada.

    Maybe Mandarin will challenge English in the near future, and the future is not really ours to know for sure…

    The fact that French has preserved for 400 years augurs well, and Québec can continue to make it flourish whether part of Canada or not.

    Within Canada you ARE able to make the linguistic policies that serve French as the necessary language of work,education commerce and services.

    Within or outside of Canada, it will not change the reality that persons with both languages will be able to earn a higher salary.

    I have no objection to all Québecois going to French only schools. People who want additional language education can go to after school programmes, exchanges, summer camps, heritage language programs, watch TV and radio etc.

    However your own PQ leader is suggesting history and geography be taught in English!

    Whatever the elected Québec government of the day decides to do and to regulate at any particular time is going to be the order of the day, whether or not criticism comes from ROC or any other quarters.

    I’m all for official and defacto French throughout Québec. Your elected leaders temper this policy obviously with economic fears, that perhaps competitiveness might be impaired, I don’t know really, what the considerations are. They talk of language peace and bla bla bla, and I’m certain it’s often very emotional.

    Show me how Canada has some federal plot to assimilate the French out of Québec. That was Lord Elgin in 1840, not Canada of 2008!

    You like to say I am a Canadian “nationalist”, despite my dislike of nationalism. Well it is true that maybe one trans-national global “country” might be too utopian or even Orwellian.

    But I certainly don’t say “rah, rah, rah, my country right or wrong, love it or leave it”

    I’ve always felt very priviledged to live in a country that had two founding nations, two languages and cultures, that is now in a modern global world willing to accept all the other cultures to participate in societies that are hopefully more human and more inclusive whether the local language on the ground is French or English.

    Québécois can continue to confidently build a brilliant French society that belongs to a two society federation. ROC does not preclude or forbid that in any way,

    Therefore why the xenophobia for ROC, from the minority
    segment in Québec?

    Lots of francophone Québécois have no real hang-ups about Canadian duality, and it would not be fair to label them as “hyphenated” or folksy!

    The successes of the European Union show the way to a better future beyond the notion of totally “sovereign” nation states. Canada itself is not totally ‘sovereign” and for that there are inevitably some trade-offs, but we can exist totally “independent” in a global world.

    In any case if in the future Québec opts, in a fair way, to go it alone, I still want dual citizenship! And also for my children, who after all graduated from a francophone high school in Toronto.

    DUAL CITIZENSHIP, S.V.P. !!

    bruce

    December 21, 2008 at 4:50 pm

  5. Marc,

    Love that post. Thanks.

    Thomas Dean Nordlum

    December 21, 2008 at 5:33 pm

  6. Salut AGF,

    Merci, je l’ai vu, cette publicité d’Amir Khadir sur la souverainété. Mais son thèse est bien trop simplifié je crois. Il parle du pouvoir a proteger la langue et la culture, l’environnement, les droits des ouvriers etc.
    Des sentiments nobles, mais la capacité d’entretenir de bonnes initiatives nécessite toujours des fonds pour accomplir le but.

    He says that money dictated by the marketplace trumps the sovereign need to achieve the goals, ce qui n’est pas acceptable au Québec Solidaire, and which would somehow be achievable under a totally independant Québec government, presumably led by himself.

    Quebec however has already relatively high taxes, and still has a per capita debt that is high by Canadian standards, so where is the money to come from to achieve the dreams being floated here? Especially during a world wide economic melt down?

    Protection of language and culture require political WILL, that much is very true, and maybe the governments that followed that of Levesque have somewhat fallen down on the job.

    Everything Levesque achieved was achieved within Canada and with indominitable political resolution on his part. A hero for sure, but Quebec still didnèt want to quit confederation none-the-less.

    Furthermore the costs eventually went too high and Quebec backed away from too heavy a state intervention in every area. Ontario was thriving better as a less regulated economy — at that time. Central planning does not always work out well in economic terms, but clearly government regulation has a role to play.

    I don’t think an independent Québec will save a lot of dollars by leaving Canada, nor that government will necessarily be that more effective or efficient being on only one level.

    If you overspend your revenues, you wind up paying a huge future part of tax to service that accumulated debt.

    Paul Martin did things properly, according to the “discredited” Keynesian economic viewpoint, which Reagan, Bush and Harper all spurned, but which is roaring back into view.

    Spend less in the boom times and accumulate surpluses so you can stimulate in bad times. Governments can do this without killing the initiative of small and medium sized entrepreneurs.

    Hydro is a great resource for sale to New England etc. but that alone is insufficient. Quebec needs a dynamically diversified economy, and world markets.

    A centralist government that is overly controlling doesn’t necessarily achieve such a shining prosperity that allows for all the extra cultural spin-offs.

    The various deficiencies of the Landry and Charest governments cannot necessarily be remedied in bad times by the policies of Kadr and David, and the Q. Solidaire.

    There IS a global interdependence, and no nation state can really insulate from that.

    Independence would not change the economic basics, and in any event Quebec has already all the tools necessary to make good things happen, with political will power.

    So, Kadir is an attractive young man on the political scene, with potential. Dumont had his moments also.
    But if you are too doctrinaire, and less pragmatic, things don’t always go well.

    I think Rene was pragmatic. Anyway it takes several political cycles to build a movement, to get proficient people elected for a team who can do a good job in government. And governments can not do everything.

    You will watch the many disappointments that will overtake some of Obama’s supporters. He cannot do everything that they expect, and he has one hell of situation to contend with. I hope he can help re-invent hope and progress within America.

    Anyhow it will be good to have Kadir in the National Assembly. He is articulate and passionate, and will help to keep the government aware of important issues.

    Thanks for the link, AF Guy!

    Merry Christmas — Joyeux Nöel

    To all, tous, toutes!

    bruce

    December 21, 2008 at 6:36 pm

  7. Bruce,

    Your original post and subsequent comments are thoughtful and well written. You display an open mind and a curiosity that are admirable.

    I will throw in my two cents worth, which is precisely what its worth.

    Nobody here ever talks about the ROQ ( the rest of Quebec- outside Montreal, Laval and Longueuil) The ROQ is 97 % French speaking and 95% French Canadian. The ROQ is afraid of Montreal because it is very unfamiliar with large swaths of it. While Montreal is the beating economic and cultural heart of all of Quebec, that”s the familiar part, it also contains 85% of Quebec’s new immigrants and old established cultural communities ( Jewish, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Armenian, ) and newer ones as well ( Arabic, Haitian, Latino, Vietnamese, Chinese, Russian, Romanian and many more).

    The main thrust of sovereignists is to win the language battle of Montreal for once and for all. Ever since the British first occupied Quebec, Montreal has vacillated back and forth between English and French majorities. Just as this battle seemed won in the 1980’s, French speakers started moving to the suburbs to be replaced by immigrants. The actual percentage of English mother tongue has dropped significantly in the past thirty years while French has also diminished but at a much lesser rate.

    Paradoxically, most sovereignists fear English (7% of the population of Quebec) while other languages form 12.5 %. The trend is there to stay as we accept about 50,000 immigrants a year vs 80,000 native births. So the linguistic battle over Montreal is rightly seen as the harbinger of French linguistic survival long term.

    Relations with the ROC should be seen in this context. Quebec will require from the ROC whatever powers its feels necessary to win the linguistic battle of Montreal. This battle is increasingly seen as Montreal’s capacity to assimilate into the French mainstream the vast majority of newcomers. Historically this was not necessary as French speakers enjoyed one of the world’s highest birth rates.

    Given the perception that the upcoming battle is of vital importance to the preservation of the French language, other issues of importance in ROC will, by definition, not be a priority in Quebec. Faced with the choice of disappearing as a group, Quebeckers will as a whole opt for protective measures, even if some of these imply weakening the federal government’s capacity to act on behalf of all its citizens.

    People get emotional when such issues are discussed, but I think its important to put the debate in its proper context.

    As long as a majority of Quebeckers believe that as a group they can continue to prosper and grow within Canada, the sovereignists will face an uphill battle for their hearts and minds. Bear in mind that they also have to overcome the perception that an acrimonious secession from ROC would be costly with unpredictable results. Hence their resentment of perceived scare tactics from their opponents who have an interest in exagerating those detrimental effects in the same way that they tend to exagerate the benefits of independence.

    And so the arguments go on, and on, and on….

    Dave

    December 22, 2008 at 4:16 pm

  8. bruce:
    > I doubt that knowledgeable ROC ers ‘decry’ the francisation of
    > immigrants coming to Quebec. It is obvious that such a policy is
    > absolutely essential.
    Probably not “decry”, but I think many anglophones have trouble seeing that someone like Amir Khadir is just as much of a francophone Quebecer as someone like, say, Lucien Bouchard.

    > since ROC likes immigrants to be able to keep their culture and
    > identity, why would it be any different for Québec, one of the two
    > founding nations of Canada?
    You’re touching at something interesting, which is the difference (or lack thereof) between how Quebecers and other Canadians see the integration of immigrants. Many people in Quebec consider our policy of “interculturalism” to be better — for Quebec anyway — to the Canadian “multiculturalism” policy, in that while it recognizes the varied cultural backgrounds of Quebecers, it also helps build a common culture on shared values, instead of recognizing cultures that exist “together but apart from each other”. But some researchers (for example Amy Nugent, in her article Demography, National Myths, and Political Origins: Perceiving Official Multiculturalism in Quebec, in Canadian Ethnic Studies, 2006, vol. 38, issue 3, p. 21-36) have suggested that Quebec interculturalism is quite similar in terms of actual policies to Canadian multiculturalism. The difference in perception comes mainly from the fact that Canadian multiculturalism is seen as the enemy of Quebec culture, reducing it to the simple French-Canadian ethnic culture in Canada, and from the fact that the rest of Canada is currently searching for its shared identity, while Quebec is surer of its own, so this difference is seen as the result of each’s society cultural policy.

    Canadian multiculturalism was in fact created by Trudeau’s government in part as a way to dissolve Quebec’s national aspirations into the “many cultures of Canada”, so it’s not surprising that it’s not seen in a good light in Quebec. But going back to your comment, what we see is that things are in fact not different for Quebec: while immigrants are expected to integrate, they are allowed to keep their identity.

    > They value that Canada is a more “civic” kind of ethos.
    There are many kinds of nationalisms, and “civic nationalism” is one of them. (Do note that, unlike what people tend to think, “ethnic nationalism” is not necessarily bad while “civil nationalism” is not necessarily good.) Quebec national identity is also largely based in a civil contract. This is what I want you to realize.

    > My critique is that you insist that an independant nation can have
    > only one official language.
    I don’t believe I actually said this. An independent nation or country can have many official languages. But look at the case of Canada, for example. Even if Canada is officially bilingual, most places in the country use a single common language, and in the few places that use more than one common language, soon enough one takes the quality of a “prestige” language. In the bilingual cities in Canada outside of Quebec, English is this prestige language. In Montreal (the main bilingual city in Quebec), it’s questionable whether English or French is the prestige language: it used to be English, but things are changing so now we could argue that both are “co-prestigious”.

    If I remember correctly, this process of multilingual places having one language that’s more prestigious than the others is quite common. We can see this effect in other societies.

    > Many commentators here say that an independent country would
    > prevent Quebec from being swallowed in a North American sea of
    > nearly 400 million English speakers.
    What it would certainly do is give Quebec complete control on its immigration and cultural policy. It wouldn’t change the tide of the world, but what is true is that many countries in Europe have fewer people than Quebec, yet maintain a strong common language which their citizens are proud of, while also knowing English very well (and often other languages as well). This is what I want to see Quebec become, and I don’t think it necessarily requires it being an independent country. I do believe it goes against what many Canadians think the place of Quebec in their country should be, though.

    This said, Quebec becoming independent would certainly be the event of our lifetimes, and might usher a great wave of patriotism that would move us to work to make this country into all it can be. (I’ve seen sovereigntists make this argument, and it is compelling.) It could also have strong negative effects, some of which we can predict and some of which we cannot. It’s hard to say.

    > However your own PQ leader is suggesting history and geography
    > be taught in English!
    Yes, and it’s been discussed on this blog. Why not, really? I wonder how it’s done in those European countries I’ve said I’d like to see Quebec become.

    > Show me how Canada has some federal plot to assimilate the
    > French out of Québec. That was Lord Elgin in 1840, not Canada of
    > 2008!
    Actually Lord Durham, who if we discount his support for assimilation — and his calling French-Canadians a nation with “no history and no culture” — was actually quite liberal and suggested in his report that Canada be granted responsible government. This was ultimately done eight years later when Lord Elgin was sent to Canada with orders to let the people govern itself. The Lafontaine-Baldwin government passed a law granting monetary reparations to the victims of the Rebellions, which would have given money to actual former rebels. Elgin felt he had no choice but to grant Royal Assent to the bill, which led to his house, as well as Lafontaine’s house and the Montreal Parliament, being burned by an angry mob of Tories. I felt the need to mention it, because in my experience many Canadians — especially English Canadians — do not know much about our country’s violent political history and instead think that (unlike in the US) it’s always been peace, order and good government here, and that we’ve become independent “because we asked Britain nicely” or some other nonsense.

    Of course Canada doesn’t have any plot to “assimilate” francophones today and I suggested no such thing. But I think a large number of Canadians today see the French language as an ethnic thing of French-Canadians, and not as one of the co-majority languages of Canada.

    > But I certainly don’t say “rah, rah, rah, my country right
    > or wrong, love it or leave it”
    Heh, neither do I. For more information on the concept of “nationalism”, there are many academic sources on the subject, notably Ray Taras’s book Liberal and Illiberal Nationalisms. I believe Taras is a Canadian (and a Quebecer) and he has studied — and describes in his book — nationalist movements in Canada, such as Canadian multiculturalism and Quebec nationalism.

    > Therefore why the xenophobia for ROC, from the minority
    > segment in Québec?
    Do you have any examples of this supposed xenophobia?

    > The successes of the European Union show the way to a better future
    > beyond the notion of totally “sovereign” nation states. Canada
    > itself is not totally ’sovereign” and for that there are
    > inevitably some trade-offs, but we can exist totally
    > “independent” in a global world.
    The European Union may not be the best example you should bring to make your point, because many sovereigntists see Canada and Quebec after sovereignty as similar to the European Union. Of course Quebec isn’t isolated from the rest of the world, and especially not from the rest of Canada and from the United States.

    > In any case if in the future Québec opts, in a fair way, to go it
    > alone, I still want dual citizenship! And also for my children, who
    > after all graduated from a francophone high school in Toronto.
    Do you live in Quebec? Have you ever lived in Quebec? Do you have any meaningful territorial connection to Quebec? If not, I don’t see how you could expect to have Quebec citizenship, just because you’re a francophile. Even francophones outside of Quebec shouldn’t expect to get preferential treatment for citizenship questions, but if Quebec ever becomes independent, I could see them being offered automatic citizenship because of some misplaced ethnic “law of return” thing and (most likely) to encourage immigration to Quebec.

    Marc

    December 26, 2008 at 12:40 am

  9. Dave:
    > Nobody here ever talks about the ROQ ( the rest of Quebec- outside
    > Montreal, Laval and Longueuil) The ROQ is 97 % French speaking and 95%
    > French Canadian. The ROQ is afraid of Montreal because it is
    > very unfamiliar with large swaths of it.
    Oh please. This is just the classic argument that Montreal (where we’re supposed to accept that people are sophisticated, intelligent, educated, and most importantly speak English) is not the “real Quebec”, where people are these uneducated and fearful pures laines holding on to their traditional values we like to think French-speaking Quebec is made of. We’ve heard it before, and it’s bullshit. The difference between Montreal and the rest of Quebec isn’t anything more than the difference between Toronto and rural Southern Ontario, or between Vancouver and BC’s interior. Of course Montreal is more ethnically diverse than rural Quebec, but Toronto is certainly more ethnically diverse than rural Ontario as well. Large cities attract immigrants.

    I come from Gatineau and I now live in Sherbrooke, and both these places have a fair number of people from ethnic minorities, and none of them hold any fear of Montreal and the strange surprises it holds. Of course, now you’ll probably point out to me that Gatineau is just north of Ottawa, many people there work in Ottawa and presumably know English, so it’s not representative of “real Quebec”; and similarly Sherbrooke is a student town (with an English name, and a decent number of anglophones), so it’s not really representative either. But that’s what we call the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

    People who try to separate “Montreal” and “the real Quebec” often like to believe that Quebec nationalism is a hobby of the “real Quebec” and that we won’t see Montrealers or similarly sophisticated people hold these ideas. But this doesn’t explain why the Quebec independence movement originated in Montreal, why the first seats won by the Parti québécois in 1970 were almost all in Montreal, and why Eastern Montreal is where the most secure PQ and BQ seats are still found today. Today, a large number of sovereigntists are found on college campuses. So quite clearly we can’t just dismiss these nationalist ideologies as the fearful rants of some uneducated people who are afraid of change and who have never seen a black or Arabic person in their whole lives.

    > Just as this battle seemed won in the 1980’s, French speakers
    > started moving to the suburbs to be replaced by immigrants. The
    > actual percentage of English mother tongue has dropped significantly
    > in the past thirty years while French has also diminished but at a
    > much lesser rate.
    Okay. So what? Montreal is becoming increasingly allophone. So long as these people are able to communicate in French, this is the opposite of a problem. But ensuring that they are able to communicate in French is where the challenge lies.

    > Paradoxically, most sovereignists fear English (7% of the population
    > of Quebec) while other languages form 12.5 %.
    Then why does Marois propose that we teach some classes to francophone kids in English, as bruce acknowledges? Is she not a sovereigntist? If what you’re saying is that sovereigntists fear English-speakers, this is incorrect — nobody “fears” anything, you’re just using this terminology to suggest that Quebec national sentiment is the result of fear and not of reason –, they actually try to convince English-speakers of the validity of their option, but they’re quite aware that English-speakers will often have more in common with their anglophone neighbours elsewhere in Canada than with francophones and see themselves as Canadian first and Quebecer second, while allophones who have integrated into Quebec society aren’t really different from francophones in terms of culture.

    > Relations with the ROC should be seen in this context. Quebec
    > will require from the ROC whatever powers its feels necessary to win
    > the linguistic battle of Montreal.
    The position of Quebec is that official language should be a wholly provincial responsibility, if that’s what you mean.

    > Faced with the choice of disappearing as a group, Quebeckers will
    > as a whole opt for protective measures, even if some of these
    > imply weakening the federal government’s capacity to act on behalf
    > of all its citizens.
    Can you give examples of this?

    Marc

    December 26, 2008 at 1:48 am

  10. Marc,

    At no time was I speaking of Toronto. I lived in Quebec City for several years, and I can tell you that most people’s perception of Montreal is that of a strange place filled with foreigners, crime, drug addicts, traffic, pollution you name it. Its not bullshit, its their perception, thats all. And yes they also perceive it as a place to practice their English. Sherbrooke ethnically diverse, please get real. The ethnics dont perceive Mtl the same ways as the old timers.

    I said swaths of Mtl, there are also large swaths that are just like Chicoutimi or Gaspé. There are more Gaspesians living in Mtl than in the Gaspé. The original PQ seats in Mtl were all in 90% + French-Canadian areas btw, Hochelaga, Rosemont, etc.

    Nobody in his right mind would claim anyone fears English speakers, please ease up on the paranoia pedal. Marois can propose anything she wants, it doesn’t change the reality on the street.
    I have never heard her propose a curb urban sprawl, the principal cause of the exodus of Mtl francophones to the suburbs. Who are the ethnics going to practice their French with, once the last francophone has moved to the South Shore?

    Its difficult to give examples of something I have predicted for the FUTURE, as in Quebeckers WILL vs HAVE.

    Dave

    December 26, 2008 at 9:36 am

  11. > I lived in Quebec City for several years, and I can tell you that most
    > people’s perception of Montreal is that of a strange place filled with
    > foreigners, crime, drug addicts, traffic, pollution you name it.
    Quebec City has a long-standing rivalry with Montreal, and it is a special case in Quebec. It’s more conservative than most of the province (except maybe the Beauce region) and it is said that it feels like a “big village”, in the sense that demographically it’s similar to these small homogeneous villages where everybody knows each other, except that it’s bigger.

    You can’t base your opinion of “all of Quebec except Montreal” on Quebec City. And that’s the thing: the province of Quebec is quite culturally diverse, you can’t judge all of it based on what you’ve seen in one place, even if you’d like to believe otherwise.

    > Sherbrooke ethnically diverse, please get real.
    Maybe my perception is coloured by the fact that I study and work at the university, but a large number of my colleagues come from outside the country. Walking in the city, I see many people belonging to visible minorities. Of course it’s not as ethnically diverse as, say, Montreal, but I think it’s as diverse as a city its size can expect to be.

    > I said swaths of Mtl, there are also large swaths that are just like
    > Chicoutimi or Gaspé. There are more Gaspesians living in Mtl than in
    > the Gaspé. The original PQ seats in Mtl were all in 90% + French-Canadian
    > areas btw, Hochelaga, Rosemont, etc.
    So what are you trying to tell me? That you don’t consider the French-speaking parts of Montreal as part of the good, diverse Montreal, but rather as part of the French-Canadian and afraid of change “real Quebec”? Where is this diverse Montreal, by the way? Westmount? What can a guy of French-Canadian ancestry do to convince you that they’re not the way you imagine them, but instead open to the world?

    > Nobody in his right mind would claim anyone fears English speakers
    What you said was “most sovereignists fear English (7% of the population of Quebec)”. How can this mean anything but that you think sovereigntists fear English speakers? Seven per cent (actually 7.7% in 2006, according to Wikipedia) is the proportion of Quebecers who have English as a mother tongue.

    If what you’re saying is that sovereigntists fear the English language (mother tongue to only 7.7% of the population of Quebec), I think my comment about Marois that you dismiss so easily proves you wrong. I’m sure you’ll find some people in Quebec who are afraid of the spread of the English language, but then again there are people in Sault St. Marie who are afraid of the spread of the French language.

    > I have never heard her propose a curb urban sprawl, the principal cause
    > of the exodus of Mtl francophones to the suburbs. Who are the ethnics
    > going to practice their French with, once the last francophone has
    > moved to the South Shore?
    Er, if you think every francophone will move to the suburbs, you’re deluding yourself. Affluent francophones (and anglophones, and allophones) are moving to the suburbs, but that’s a phenomenon that’s common to the entire Western world. Less affluent people are remaining in the inner cities.

    And if French is the real common language of Quebec, it shouldn’t matter even if no pure laine remains behind on the island of Montreal. French will still be the language used between members of different ethnic communities, and the language of work, and these new immigrants will still be offered help in learning it.

    Marc

    December 26, 2008 at 1:36 pm

  12. Dave,

    “At no time was I speaking of Toronto. I lived in Quebec City for several years, and I can tell you that most people’s perception of Montreal is that of a strange place filled with foreigners, crime, drug addicts, traffic, pollution you name it. Its not bullshit, its their perception, thats all. And yes they also perceive it as a place to practice their English. Sherbrooke ethnically diverse, please get real. The ethnics dont perceive Mtl the same ways as the old timers.”

    This so-called ROQ vs Montreal is nothing more than the rural-urban divide found elsewhere in North America. People in rural counties, villages, and suburbs tend to view big cities and metropolises in a negative way with exactly the traits that you attribute to Montreal from ROQ. This is not unique in Quebec.

    Also, if you say that people go to Montreal to learn English, then sovereignists and other defenders of the French language are right to be paranoid of the condition of French in Quebec’s metropolis.

    However, I agree with you that the flight of francophones from the island is a worrying trend and must be addressed ASAP. But the problem is the mayor, not a Quebec prime minister or potential one like Mme Marois. Mayor Tremblay and previous mayors were not able to make Montreal attractive enough for those francophones. They should hang their heads in shame. Improving snow removal would be a good start.

    Antonio

    December 26, 2008 at 7:25 pm

  13. “I lived in Quebec City for several years, and I can tell you that most people’s perception of Montreal is that of a strange place filled with foreigners, crime, drug addicts, traffic, pollution you name it. Its not bullshit, its their perception, thats all. And yes they also perceive it as a place to practice their English.”

    You might be right, Dave, the people of Québec city are a little bit homogenous and conservative, but you fail to add that Québec City is also, by far, the most federalist and pro-Canada town in Québec.

    The Canadian compromise works fine in the ROQ. French culture is not in any way in danger there, so there is no reason to change the system.

    Canadian federalism breaks down in Montreal and Gatineau where an important Anglo minority tends to take up much more space than demography warrants and makes threatens the integration of immigrants and the availability of French service.

    That is why, as Marc explained to you, the Independence was born in Montreal and Gatineau and is strongest in Montreal (68% of Francos in MTL voted yes in 1995) In Gatineau the support for sovereignty is weaker because of the federal jobs situation.

    Most Anglo Canadians don’t realize that the “pur et dur”, the most militant and radical wing of the PQ is headquatered not in Abitibi or Rimouski or Gaspé, but in the riding of Montréal-Centre, the most central of all Montreal ridings…

    angryfrenchguy

    December 27, 2008 at 6:17 pm

  14. “Most Anglo Canadians don’t realize that the “pur et dur”, the most militant and radical wing of the PQ is headquatered not in Abitibi or Rimouski or Gaspé, but in the riding of Montréal-Centre, the most central of all Montreal ridings…”

    Unless they’re anglos from the ROQ.

    Listen, I don’t mean to be a jerk, but it might be worthwhile to point out that the anglo population of montreal, while a minority elsewhere, isn’t really much of a demographic minority in the single biggest city in Quebec. This isn’t even including allophones, bilinguals, and other people who speak english. I also don’t think they take up much more space than the demography warrants, considering that the demography doesn’t always relate to the economics or social fabric of the city.

    I don’t think french culture is any less in danger in the ROQ than it is here. Our culture is heavily (sadly) defined by broadcast area, and that makes it just as at-risk as english canadian culture from any other part of canada, and considerably less at-risk than say, Acadian culture. The only reason it’s getting played so heavily is that it’s good for PR, and the PR gets votes. The one thing I DO like about Khadir is that he’s not playing that card. Otherwise, I’m not too impressed with him (having met him briefly pretty much turned me off to his personality, and I don’t really like QS’s somewhat vague position on a bunch of things).

    Caspian

    December 29, 2008 at 4:28 am

  15. The best law ever enacted by the PQ was the protection of farmland. Since 1977, a cursory glance in any suburb will reveal just how much farmland has been turned into bungalows, shopping centres and roads. There exists a strong construction/development lobby in QC militating in favour of suburban expansion.

    The problem is that this expansion comes at an overall cost to society in transportation infrastructure, hollowing out of the city centre, environmental degradation etc etc. None of these costs are being borne by the developpers and their clients. As a society, we are wasting precious resources, but politically, the voters in the 450 area are a significant block that no politician can ignore. I call it lack of leadership and foresight, some call it natural forces at work in a democratic society.

    “Canadian federalism breaks down in Montreal and Gatineau where an important Anglo minority tends to take up much more space than demography warrants and makes threatens the integration of immigrants and the availability of French service.” AGF

    Given that urban sprawl in Mtl is caused in very large part by francophones leaving the island, I find it a little rich that you can’t accept any blame for decreased French mother tongue presence in Mtl and prefer the easier route of blaming anglos for taking up too much space. The departing francos are being replaced by allos not anglos, they need francos to live in French. The threat is not the vestiges of anglo domination, its the lack of a strong franco presence, and frankly I don’t hear a single politician speaking about this.

    The sovereignists want to control the work force by making francisation obligatory for tiny companies and want to further legislater restrictions on English. They are proving once afgain that there doesn’t exist a problem that can’t be solved by some new legislation. The federalists are placing more emphasis on encouragement and positive incentives for immigrants to assimilate int franco society.

    Neither of these solutions can work if the demographics aren’t turned around, which in turn cannot happen unless urban sprawl is contained. The PQ can pass all the laws it wants but at the end of the day, an immigrant needs to interact with francos to integrate.

    Dave

    December 30, 2008 at 9:16 am

  16. “Neither of these solutions can work if the demographics aren’t turned around, which in turn cannot happen unless urban sprawl is contained. The PQ can pass all the laws it wants but at the end of the day, an immigrant needs to interact with francos to integrate.”

    I mostly agree with you on this issue. But although the movement to the suburbs cannot be blamed entirely on language – the Great White Flight to the suburbs is a reality everywhere in North America – I think it is a factor. If the 450s can do their shopping at complexe 10/30 and Carrefour Laval without crossing any bridges OR having to deal som girl from Oshawa with high school French at the GAP, there is no point in ever going back downtown, especially with theaters, bars and clubs moving out.

    But I agree with you that it’s up to francos to stand their ground. Use it or lose it.

    angryfrenchguy

    December 30, 2008 at 3:52 pm

  17. Dave:
    > Neither of these solutions can work if the demographics aren’t
    > turned around, which in turn cannot happen unless urban sprawl is contained.
    > The PQ can pass all the laws it wants but at the end of the day, an immigrant
    > needs to interact with francos to integrate.
    Why with francophones, necessarily? Why not with people for whom French isn’t their first language, but who still speak it well? I’m sure someone could learn good enough English by speaking with me, and I’m not at all anglophone.

    Maybe that’s not what you’re trying to imply, but to me this sounds like you’re saying that at the end of the day, French is still a little ethnic thing of the French-Canadians, not the common language of Quebecers.

    Anyway, maybe nobody’s tried to address the problem of urban sprawl, but as we’ve said, this is a problem that’s common to the entire Western world, and the solutions aren’t easy. What we’ve tried in Quebec is to attract French-speaking immigrants, which is certainly a valid solution to the problem of immigrants having trouble (or not caring about) learning French.

    Marc

    December 30, 2008 at 5:17 pm

  18. “Why not with people for whom French isn’t their first language, but who still speak it well? ”

    My dictionary defines francophone as someone who understands and speaks French fluently, this doesn’t mean it has to be a mother tongue.

    “OR having to deal som girl from Oshawa with high school French at the GAP”

    cheap shot AGF, most people avoid Mtl because of increased traffic snarls, poor snow removal, expensive parking. The accent of shop clerks is pretty low on the list of aggravations.

    Dave

    December 31, 2008 at 11:55 am

  19. “The accent of shop clerks is pretty low on the list of aggravations.”

    It is truly astonishing how some people will deny all evidence that contradicts their delusions. Have you read a single newspaper this year?

    Hint: Tonight december 31st, Radio-Canada, Infoman’s year in review followed by Bye Bye 2008. I’ll bet you 101 dollars the decline of French service in Montreal will considered one of the big stories of 2008.

    angryfrenchguy

    December 31, 2008 at 2:17 pm

  20. It may be a big story for Infoman but it doesn’t rate a move to the suburbs, delusional ???

    I didn’t blame the move to the suburbs on language, you seem to think it counts more than I do. In any event the facts speak for themselves. The sovereignisats will wring their hands and then sit on them, as usual.

    If I were a sovereignist I would be supremely p….d off with the movement that always talks a good talk but never walks.

    Dave

    December 31, 2008 at 8:37 pm

  21. Quebec was, is, and will remain a glorious part of our UNITED Canada.
    There is no doubt…

  22. Sadly for you, you don’t get to make that decision. When was Canada ever a UNITED country?

    angryfrenchguy

    February 22, 2009 at 11:25 pm

  23. Yeah you’re right my friend. But what about me? What about you? What about us? What about future?
    Isn’t it the time to set aside all the points of differentiation? Isn’t it time to become UNITED, not divided? Isn’t it time…
    Let’s be quite clear and honest, what did come out of all those hatreds? All of those fights? All of those disharmonies?
    Let’s start a new chapter. What is the difference between you and me? What is the different between an Albertan, a Quebecer, and an Ontarian? I cannot find anything.
    Do not be angry my Canadian compatriot. Let’s be…

  24. The only hater around here is you, amigo.

    Canada had many opportunities to make things right with Québec and even promised many times to make the political changes and hand over the powers Québec has been asking for for 50 years.

    Yet Canada still has yet to offer a constitution Québec can sign with honor.

    You actually want Québec to stay? Write to you MP and to you premier and tell them to stay the hell out of Québec’s affairs. Tell them not to force pan-canadian institutions like a national securities commission on Québec. Tell them a party on the theme of France’s defeat is not quite the way to build national unity. Tell them Québec wants to control everything that regards immigration education and culture itself and that as a proud canadian you have no problem with that. Tell them that they should it’s time Canada’s constitution is changed so that Québec can sign it with honor.

    Can you do that?

    angryfrenchguy

    February 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm

  25. Dear friend,
    You are on the wrong side. Why did you find me hater? I’m hater of what?
    Ya, I agree. I don’t believe that all the things in this country are going well. Remember that everything in this world can become better. But I cannot accept many of those that you’re demonstrating as right too. Here is a federal country. Can you understand this word my friend, federal? Why should Quebec have supervision over immigration? I do believe that the system that we have right now is not good at all. Why two systems of immigration? Quebec and federal? So funny. In this way it would not be too far that Ontario, Alberta, B.C., etc. want their own. We are all living in one country and I cannot understand TWO systems of immigration for ONE country.
    Why are we all sucking around the U.S. these days but don’t wanna consider the realities that exist in that country? Spanish is the second language (and consequently the second culture) of the U.S. and it would become the first not too far. But where in the U.S. can you find two systems of immigration?
    As a Quebecer I do believe that those who always cried for the separation of Quebec are the politicians who their last concern has never been Quebec and Quebecers even. I don’t wanna insult anyone, but I don’t wanna fool myself as well. If separatists of any kind (socialist, cons., lib., Islamist …) are really concerned of the heritage and the future of Quebec and Quebecers why don’t they want to come to the table and legitimize the rights of Quebecers just the same as the citizens of other provinces of this country.
    It may seem funny to you that a Quebecer is now saying these, but I ask you to consider that what the peoples of this land are seeking for is quite different from what you, politicians, are looking for. We cannot close our eyes on what that exists inside this country. Can you imagine 20 years later of Ontario or B.C.? Won’t it be funny for you if Chinese want a separate state inside those provinces? What about Indians? The words of politicians like you and any other separatists would be funny for me just exactly in the same way. I cannot close my eyes on N.B. On how nice my Canadian compatriots are living in that province, in spite of all the differences that they have. Thus I’m asking you to ask yourself once more: “For what am I fighting?” “How can I get into that?” and finally “I’m fooling whom?”
    And in my last words, if you are a French guy my friend, why don’t you immigrate to France and live there. Here is Canada. Not England. Not France. Not America. Here is Canada, nothing more, nothing less. Here is Canada…

  26. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you did not know how to read or write English. No wonder you are so confused about your country…

    angryfrenchguy

    February 24, 2009 at 7:59 pm

  27. Dear friend,
    Don’t be surprised by my English. It is not as bad as yours. But the main point here is not English and the weakness that you have. The point is that you don’t wanna realize the essence of this country.
    I’m so sorry for you. Not because of your English, that can be improved in future if you try hard. I’m so sorry for you because of the tolerance that you had to represent, as a citizen of this great land, and you didn’t. You know, it cannot be unfortunately improved in future because you don’t want to open your eyes and change your way.
    For me, there is no difference between you, as a separatist, and Stephen Harper, as a federalist. Titles and labels cannot define exactly who you are. Both of you stick around shameful myths, which are toooooooooo far from the realities and spirit of this country, when your OWN benefits are in danger.
    Don’t fool yourself my friend. You didn’t take the oath in the name of us, the people of Quebec. You took the oath in the name of your OWN interests, in the name of bolding the differences that exist inside this land and take advantage of it. Although I’m not for socialism, I believe that you are not a true socialist at all. You are not even a true Muslim. I had, and still proudly have, many Muslim friends. None of those are so impolite and weak to blame their OWN ills on others. None of those are so naive to fake the realities when they don’t love them.
    You are on the wrong side my friend, on the wrong side…

    All the bests,

    Your Canadian fellow

  28. […] do, if he was so inclined, is reach out the Canadian left and see if  his sovereigntists comrade Amir Khadir’s suggestion that the Bloc and the NDP work out some sort of  formal alliance had any […]

  29. […] do, if he was so inclined, is reach out the Canadian left and see if  his sovereigntists comrade Amir Khadir‘s suggestion that the Bloc and the NDP work out some sort of  formal alliance has any […]


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