‘This is Canada’

From the September-October 2013 issue of News & Letters:

‘This is Canada’

On July 25, a piece of pure hate speech appeared in the Huffington Post Canada, “Is Quebec Good Enough for Canada?” by Diane Weber Bederman, whom the Post describes as “a multi-faith-endorsed, hospital-trained chaplain.”

Bederman accuses French-Canadians of “secular fundamentalism…destructive of the bi-lingual, multi-ethnic fabric of Canada,” of “uni-lingualism and uni-cultural absolutism…a throwback to tribalism…” “racism,” and at the end, “…verging on fascism.” Her rant continues with a dishonest history of Canada since World War I, emphasizing Quebec’s opposition to conscription in both world wars, and blames Quebec for Canada’s failure to accept Jewish refugees during World War II. All of this with no supporting evidence.

The facts are otherwise. Quebec is one of only two bilingual provinces, the other being New Brunswick, and all eight other provinces are militantly unilingual. Anti-militarism was a good thing, and created the space for U.S. draft resisters to take refuge in Canada during the 1960s. The decision to turn back Jews during World War II was made by Prime Minister Mackenzie-King, not Quebec. There was an infamous letter of May 18, 1942, from FDR to Mackenzie-King which every scholar of Canadian history knows about.

Why did the Huffington Post print Bederman’s letter, and why are some Canadian leaders promoting her views? It shows how far Canada has shifted to the Right since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister in 2006. The revolutionary political activism of Quebec students and labor, the better social safety net, the protections for free speech, the anti-militarism, the striving for freedom, which are so present in Quebec, are perceived as a threat by Canada’s elite; as is the possibility that English-Canadian workers will unite with their French-speaking compatriots.

Bederman may have done Quebecers a favor by revealing the true bankruptcy of today’s Canada. One reader summed up Bederman’s hate-piece with three simple words: “This is Canada.” That is a question that has yet to be answered.

—D. Chêneville and PJ

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