I'm not entirely sure how long it took Alexandre Bissonnette to commit his horrible act but I think it's safe to assume that it was an act of hate. And regardless of whatever motives he may come up with, I think it's safe to assume that this guy is not right in the head. No sane reasoning can lead one to the cold-blooded murder of a bunch of innocent civilians.
In the wake of this tragic event, there were many recriminations in Quebec despite the fact that we know virtually nothing about the killer's motives. Anyone who believes in a stricter understanding of secularism, thinks we may be accepting too many immigrants, or questions Canadian multiculturalism was made somehow guilty.
I won't be addressing any of that. This piece is in response to certain articles that I came across which try put the blame for this atrocity on all Quebecers. These biased articles reminded me of the Two Minutes Hate from George Orwell's book 1984. They aren't any kind of rational exercise which aims to get at truth. They are just an excuse to vent hate.
There was a nasty opinion piece on the CBC's web site doing just that. But what bothered me even more than having Canada's national broadcaster spewing hate against Quebecers was the fact that the Washington Post got a bigot from Vancouver to write an article placing the blame for this massacre on all Quebecers.
I have a hard time understanding why the Washington Post would ask an anglophone from British Columbia to provide them with insight into Quebec. If they wanted insight into Croatian society would they ask a Serb living in Belgrade? A guy like that might have a biased opinion, don't you think? Well, I have news for you, Washington Post, J.J. McCullough is extremely biased.
Here are some of his claims from this article:
"A disproportionate share of the country’s massacres occur in the province of Quebec."
What is this claim based on? Cherry-picking would be my guess. The Huffington Post recently compiled a list of the thirteen worst mass shootings in Canada's recent history. Only three of them occurred in Quebec. That's pretty proportionate to our share of the population. J.J. only seems to remember the ones that happened in Quebec.
"Criticism of Quebec, meanwhile, is deeply taboo."
This claim is simply mind-boggling. You really need industrial-strength ideological blinders to make such a claim. The Quebec bashing article has become a kind of literary genre in English Canada. Some well-known, professional Quebec-bashers include the late author Mordecai Richler, former radio personality Howard Galganov, and alledged journalists such as Diane Francis and Barbara Kay. These are the more famous, over-the-top Quebec-bashers but there are countless others.
J.J. then goes on to depict Jan Wong as some kind of martyr of this imagined "taboo." Let's recall her 15 minutes of fame. In 2006, there was a school shooting at Dawson College in Montreal. The perpetrator, Kimveer Gill, was the son of Indian immigrants. Without any evidence at all Jan Wong wrote an article, published in the Globe and Mail, claiming that the real cause of this and other mass shootings in Quebec was the racism of Quebecers. First of all, if that were true, then why shoot up an anglophone college?
But Jan went even further. She claimed that Quebecers were obsessed with racial purity based on her interpretation of an antiquated expression, "pure lain" (pure wool), which is used to refer to old stock Quebecers. She claimed that "Elsewhere, to talk of racial purity is repugnant. Not in Quebec."
The claim was just so absurd, and such obvious hate propaganda against Quebecers, that it was called out and condemned by most rational people. J.J. McCullough was clearly not part of that group. J.J. obviously believes that Jan was attacked for speaking some kind of "taboo" truth about Quebec.
"The English are waking up!" *
J.J. continues by telling us that despite the oppressive censorship on discussing the evils of Quebec, English Canadians are beginning to speak out. They're starting to grumble about "Quebec’s dark history of anti-Semitism, religious bigotry and pro-fascist sentiment", Quebec's "French-supremacist language and assimilation laws," and how Quebecers are "noticeably more racist than the Canadian norm."
I don't want to exaggerate this point, but really, this last bit from J.J. is the equivalent of someone in the U.S. claiming that white people are being oppressed by Blacks and other minorities. The anti-Semitism in Quebec's past has been exposed and it was not very different from the anti-Semitism in English Canada. Canada's Prime-Minister at the time, William Lyon Mackenzie King, was a raging anti-Semite who sent thousands of Jews back to Germany to end up in concentration camps. There are plenty of other examples of the anti-Semitism in English Canada at the time like Toronto's Christie Pits riots. But people like J.J. only seem to remember the anti-Semitism in Quebec for some reason.
Quebec, like Canada, engages in cultural protectionism. Given that we are such a small French-speaking minority living on an overwhelmingly English-speaking continent, calling a law that says that French has to be more prominent on commercial signs "French-supremacist" is a clear sign of bigotry. As for the "charter of values", that also needs to be put in its proper context. But regardless of the context, the basic idea that representatives of the State should not display any overt religious affiliation while performing their duties does not seem like a bad idea to me. My criticism would be in the way this idea was applied.
Also, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that Quebecers are more racist than your average Canadian. We do have a very different history from the rest of Canada and so we have a different perspective in regards to immigration, but Canadians have there own race issues to deal with. It is true that there has been a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in Quebec over the past few years, largely due to the terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin. But this is equally true for other parts of Canada, like Ontario.
The recent events in Quebec City are horrible and disturbing. All Quebecers need to do some soul searching in the face of such an incident. But those who exploit a tragedy like this to vent their hatred of Quebecers should perhaps also be doing some soul searching instead. And to the Washington Post, if you want to give your readers some insight into Quebec society, why not ask someone who actually lives here next time?
* Richard Bain, September 4, 2012