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Robert Dutrisac June 13, 2012
Original French Text: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/352130/nous-on-sait
Consult the list of the letter’s signatories: http://www.ledevoir.com/documents/pdf/lettre_ministre_finale_signatures.pdf
Irate, some 2600 key players in Quebec’s cultural milieu, in an unprecedented revolt, demanded a public apology on behalf of the minister of Culture and Communications, Christine St-Pierre, for her comments linking all those who wear the red square with violence. The minister refused to offer an apology yesterday.
In a public letter published on the Devoir’s website, these thousands of artists, actors, directors, filmmakers, writers, CEGEP and university professors, cultural journalists, and other members of the artistic community are outraged by Christine St-Pierre’s “demagogic comments” following Fred Pellerin’s refusal to receive the title of Knight of the National Order of Quebec last Friday. In a letter sent to the institution, the storyteller had invoked the current social crisis to justify his decision. The minister then affirmed that the storyteller had the right to wear the red square, “but us, we know what the red square means, it means intimidation, violence”.
The signatories qualify the generalization as “propaganda”. “You are not without the knowledge that the vast majority of the key players in the cultural milieu proudly bear the red square”, the wrote, adding that a “minister of Culture cannot allow herself to scorn artists”.
“If your objective was to amass political capital by stigmatizing the violence associated with the student movement, we would like to remind you that this kind of strategy awakens the most muddy things in people’s consciousness”, they continued. Accusing the minister of wanting to demean the debate, the signatories highlighted that the voices in opposition to the governmental vision “constitute the fertile grounds of humanist culture and come from the very segment of society that places humanist culture in opposition to this business culture that is assaulting free thought”.
“If the only argument you’ve decided to oppose to this profound ideological schism is a recourse to fear to justify the necessity of maintaining order, we insist on reminding you that this game is extremely dangerous, and that to raise the old scarecrows of fear at the service of order brings back terrible memories of a not-so-distant history”, they denounced.
Violence is embodied in “a police force that has multiplied its acts of brutality towards peaceful protesters”, it is “[a product] of your lying and contemptuous words”, expressed the artists.
Amongst the signatories are found actors such as Céline Bonnier, Sylvie Drapeau and Normand Chouinard, stage directors such as Brigitte Haentjens, Martin Faucher, Olivier Reichenbach and Dominic Champagne, filmmakers such as Léa Pool and Hugo Latulippe, singers such as Pierre Lapointe and Martin Léon, writers such as Marie-Claire Blais, Michel Tremblay and Élise Turcotte, as well as critics and cultural journalists, namely the Devoir’s Odile Tremblay.
The minister clarified her thoughts
During the question period at the National Assembly, Christine St-Pierre, when pressed by the official opposition, refused to apologize; she rather chose to add to her statement in order to clarify her thoughts. “We have all seen that there have been student protests that have, sometimes, led to utterly disgraceful scenes, scenes of intimidation, scenes the media has witnessed and images that have been brought back to every television screen. These ways of proceeding are inadmissible and that is what I’d wished to express when I spoke of the red square.”
“In a free and democratic society, we must dissociate ourselves from violence, we must dissociate ourselves from the scenes we’d witnessed in Montreal’s metro”, the minister reiterated. Not leaving it alone, the government’s parliamentary leader Jean-Marc Fournier spoke of “gas canisters on house porches” and of “envelopes” containing white powder.
“How can you associate Fred Pellerin with gas canisters”, his péquiste [PQ] counterpart, Stéphane Bédard, outrageously exclaimed. “So, all those who wear the red square support violence and intimidation. That’s big, that’s enormous, that’s stupid, that’s too much. It’s like saying that all the members of the [Quebec Liberal Party] walk around with party donors’ corporate credit cards.”
At the very end of the question period, Jean-Marc Fournier seemed to have wanted to apologize for his colleague. “If the artists are hurt, we must apologize”, he said. Upon inquiring to his staff, it was not at all his intention.
This text was modified after its printing.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.