In George Orwell’s landmark novel, 1984, Citizen Winston Smith has a doubt. He hears that his country, Oceania, has always been Estasia’s ally in a war against Eurasia. But Winston is certain that he had previously heard his government tell him the opposite: that he was Eurasia’s ally in its war against Estasia. But since all the archives have been modified, he cannot demonstrate this.
Liberal MP for Saint-Laurent, Emmanuella Lambropoulos, is the Winston of Liberal Party of Canada. Pierre Trudeau had said of Bill 101 that it would lead Quebec “into the dark ages”. Mme Lambropoulos is sure to have heard Justin trudeau assert that strengthening Bill 101 would be equivalent to “punishing French-speaking Quebecers who want their children to develop an ability in English”. She swears to have seen her current parliamentary leader, Pablo Rodriguez, accuse the separatists of wanting to “draw barriers on the basis of language, on the basis of culture, on the basis of color” when they wanted to condition citizenship knowledge of French in Quebec.
Normal, then, that Mme Lambropoulos treated in a tweet the PQ “racists” and that no one in the PLC has condemned it, especially not the president of the PLC in Quebec, who judged in her own tweet, like everyone else at the PLC, the “oppressive” 101 law.
Even listening attentively to the Speech from the Throne of September 23 would not have enabled the member to foresee the extent of the shock to come. The text announces for the first time that Canada must promote French in Quebec. But nowhere is Bill 101 mentioned, nor above all an expression that should henceforth be considered sacred: “the decline of French”.
This is why the member thought she was respectful of the party line when she questioned, in interrogative form and in air quotes, the “myth of decline”. The question was put to the Languages Commissioner, Raymond Théberge, who also seemed to continue to live in the world before. He did not use the word “decline” throughout his testimony and was unable to demonstrate it.
Then Big Brother descended on Mme Lambropoulos. Mélanie Joly, who had nothing to complain about when Pablo Rodriguez was baited on the Bloc, found herself “amazed” that a member of a West Island constituency could question this truth which has always been admitted to the PLC that French is in decline in Quebec. In fact, in a typical Orwellian operation, the Twitter and Facebook accounts of federal Liberal elected officials and apparatchiks were subjected to a first-rate purge. Apologies were dictated to the culprits without being completely convinced of their sincerity.
Orwell also invited himself to the Conservative Party. There too, we had never heard a national official speak of the “decline” of French or of the need for Ottawa to support French in Quebec. In an astonishing speech, the new leader, Erin O’Toole, went further than any federalist leader in Canada – and Quebec – by using as a key argument the minorization of mother-tongue Francophones on the island of Montreal. Of course, Mr. O’Toole could not have tried to make us believe that John A. Macdonald was a Francophile, he who ordered the hanging of Riel and called all Francophones “dogs”. For the rest, O’Toole seems to even announce an adhesion to the demands of Quebec in immigration that his predecessors have always rejected.
We would be in an unprecedented situation in Ottawa, where the majority opposition could force the Liberals to adopt the measures promoted for years by the Bloc and called for by the CAQ, if it were not for the Orwellian turnaround, too. of the NDP.
In the world before, Jack Layton supported the idea of making Canadian citizenship in Quebec conditional on knowledge of French. In the next world, the NDP believes this is “an approach that divides and excludes newcomers.” The statement, in writing, does not come from NDP MP Matthew Greene, who told the CBC network that the Bloc “is in fact defending the prerogative of preserving white supremacy.” No, it comes from the only remaining member of the party in Quebec, Alexandre Boulerice. During a debate in the House this week, Mr. Boulerice did everything to minimize the existence of any decline of French in Quebec, taking up word for word the jovialist arguments advanced until recently by Jean Charest or Philippe Couillard.
Now refusing an asymmetrical approach to obtaining Canadian citizenship in Quebec, the NDP has however failed to purge its archives. We still find online his 2005 Sherbrooke declaration stating that “the NDP believes that asymmetric federalism is the best way to combine the Canadian federal state with the reality of Quebec’s national character”.
Fortunately, in Quebec, whose motto is “Je me souviens”, we have a bit of memory left. We will judge the federal parties neither by their reversals nor by their speeches or promises, but by their actions. We won’t be anyone’s Winstons.