On Tuesday, September 2, 2003, I received a very well thought out letter from a young French Quebecer (Separatist) who wanted me to know that his movement is not what I thought it was.
In his thoughts, Quebec Separation was now a more civilized and inclusive endeavor.
This is how I responded to him with some minor editing for this editorial:
Yannick: Please let me commend you on your superlative effort to write in the English language. Your points are crystal clear. Well done!
I speak and read French relatively well, but unlike you writing in English, I know I could not write in French without making a great many mistakes.
Let me correct you in a huge error you have made repeatedly in your letter to me.
I do not hate the French Quebecois or the Separatists for their views or political aspirations. As a matter of fact, I don’t think you will find the word hate in anything I have ever written or said (about Quebec). And if you do, it will not be a reflection upon your political and social agenda.
I grew up in a French milieu with French friends. And when I was 16 years old, many of my French friends were attending the University of Montreal. With them, I too celebrated the new-found freedom of French Quebecois thought.
However; my friends spent all of their time debating how they see themselves in a new and open Quebec, divorced from the Catholic Church, and open to new and vibrant ideas.
They didn’t invest their time trying to blame the English (me) for the problems they faced during the past century. They knew that they could be as good as anyone, and better than many. But it was with their own hard work and imagination that would take them there.
Making Quebec French, at the expense of all others was not going to make their lives better. Becoming involved in business, reaching beyond Quebec’s borders, and accepting modernity was the key for their success.
Those friends of mine paved the way for you and your friends.
They became very successful and influential business people who elevated French Quebec to a level that did not exist before the 1960’s. But these friends, at least most of them, are not Separatists.
They have an affinity for their (your) culture, but they also remain open to other cultures and a greater role for themselves within Canada.
These are the people who make Quebec successful. Not the Parizeaus and Landrys.
I don’t think Canada is nearly as good a country as I know it can be. I think the federal government is a major exercise in incompetence. It stagnates the country and makes life more difficult rather than easier. And I too want to see major changes made between Ottawa’s relationship with the provinces.
I want Canada to decentralize into 5 regions (just like Rene Levesque wanted), where each region would be semi autonomous and be totally responsible for all of their social policies: from education, to labor, to healthcare. Without federal interference.
I want to see the end of high federal taxation and subsequent transfer and equalization payments to the provinces. The role I see for Canada has more to do with international agreements, the military and post office, than anything else.
But, through successive agreements, Quebec already has most of these things, including massive equalization payments and extraordinary largesse from the federal government. So, in reality, Quebec has very little to complain about.
Perhaps Rene Levesque was right when he said: Quebec should be as French as Ontario is English? Perhaps Canada should entirely scrap its official languages policy and let the provinces decide?
But if this happens, Quebec will be an enormous loser.
The media has given me extraordinary coverage during the past few years, much of it quite distorted and unfair.
Many (English and French) of the media tried to establish how similar I was to Raymond Villeneuve. However; I never once endorsed violence of any kind while he is a convicted murderer.
And to the contrary, anyone who would have resorted to violence on our side of the debate was instantly persona non grata.
Unlike Villeneuve, I don’t live on welfare. I live on a horse estate where I employ many of my neighbors. I don’t lay in bed until noon waiting for my welfare cheque to arrive. I am up early, taking care of my business with my wife.
Together, we own Canada’s largest hospitality (hotels – etc), advertising and promotional business. We are also publishers. And we own and operate a private hotel reservation service available only to the media.
Instead of taking from the state, Anne and I donate a considerable amount of time, effort and money to various charities. Including charities within Quebec.
And never once do we question where our largesse will go. It is totally irrelevant to us if the recipient speaks English or French, is Jewish, Christian, other, or is Black or White. That’s how we see the world.
I also used to be compared to Gilles Rheaume, the past president of the SSJB society. However; like Villeneuve, Rheaume never acknowledged where he worked or what he did for a living. His claim to fame, is that he once walked to Quebec City for the sole purpose of urinating on the statue of General Wolfe.
What an accomplishment for him to place in his resume.
To me, the freedom of debate and exchange of ideas is the pinnacle of democracy. As much as I don’t agree with many of your concepts, I will fight to the extreme, to protect your right to speak freely without the fear of intimidation and recriminations, as long as what you say is not filled with lies, distortions, or incitement to cause hatred and violence.
What I don’t support in any fashion of what the ethnocentricity of the Quebecois nationalist movement is all about, is the inexcusable desire to eradicate the English language and English history from Quebec.
No one in a civilized democracy could ever accept that another language or culture should be invisible or be relegated by law, to be “half” (bill 86) as important as the language of the majority.
Confucius wrote: “be careful for what you wish – you just might get it”.
In the case of French Quebec’s quest for cultural and linguistic superiority over all other languages and cultures; this policy is like a knife that can cut both ways.
At one point, and I believe that point is rapidly approaching; more people like me will write-off Quebec as a French only region, and see for themselves and their families a better future where their language and culture are treated with respect and equality.
Since the 70’s, about half a million Quebecers, most of whom were English speaking saw the ethnocentric nationalist Quebecois writing on the wall and left. Bringing with them, their money, talent, entrepreneurship and jobs.
Like me, they left with a major part of Quebec’s future.
It is still quietly happening. However; sooner, rather than later, it will become more accelerated. And when that happens, you will really understand what it is like to be only 6,000,000 French Quebecers in a sea of more than 300,000,000 English speakers who couldn’t care one way or the other for French Quebec’s cultural survival.
I will be pleased to include your name and address on my broadcast e-mail directory. But, please understand, most of what I write, deals with issues other than Quebec.
Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov