If Micheal Sabia is an Allophone then I am Turning Japanese
Last Monday, while answering a question that no one asked, Micheal Sabia, the newly appointed head of Québec’s Caisse de Placement et Dépôt, declared in front of a parliamentary committee: “As an allophone, I consider that I have deep roots here, in Québec.”
This is a very strange statement in quite a few ways. First of all, the answer had nothing to do with the question that was asked by the Parti québécois MNA Jean-Martin Aussant. The MNA questioned Mr. Sabia’s commitment to the idea that the Caisse’s role should include protecting companies headquartered in Québec since, as the big boss at Bell Canada Entreprise, Mr. Sabia was involved in a failed attempt to sell the company to an Ontario pension fund.
Mr. Sabia’s reply was an emotional defence of his personal attachement to Québec, his grand-parents and Québec as an open society.
That’s swell and all, but that was not what M. Aussant asked. His answer, once again, raises questions about Mr. Sabia’s command of the French language.
Stranger still is Mr. Sabia’s claim to be an allophone. In fact, Micheal Sabia is not, by any definition of the term, an allophone. He is an anglophone. His mother tongue is English. He speak English, some French, and according to the Caisse’s press officer, “rudiments of Italian”. Well if “rudiments” Italian makes one an italophone, then I am an hispanophone, a classic greekophone and a japanesophone.
With his nomination already on slippery terrain because of questions about his business culture, his knowledge of the financial world and his ability to speak French, Mr. Sabia apparently decided it would be easier to defend himself if he positioned himself as an “ethnic” instead of a big bad Anglo.
When did Mr. Sabia’s italian roots become an issue? What do they have to do with the philosophical questions that are being debated about the CDPQ’s role in the Québec economy or his personal approach to managing public funds?
As reported by Le Devoir, Mr. Sabia’s attachment to ethnicity puts him in complete contradiction with the opinion of his immigrant mother, a staunch opponent of Canada’s multiculturalism and bilingualism policy: “We will never be a great nation until we forget ethnicity and become Canadians. Multiculturalism divided us and maybe assimilation will have to unite us”, once said Laura Sabia, who’s first canadian language was French, in a speech to the Empire Club in Toronto. “Why not a French Québec? Why should the rest of Canada not be English? Why can’t we build a nation on this basis.”
Because if race baiting does not help build nations, it has been a very successful way of winning elections. Mr. Sabia’s answer was straight out of the Liberal (Mr. Sabia is a known contributor) playbook which says that every issue must be spined into a question of ethnicity.