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Lise Payette June 22, 2012
Original French Text: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/353110/les-quebecois-aux-rayons-x
The short break we get each year to celebrate Quebec’s national holiday gives us the opportunity to ask what we, as a people, have accomplished over the last year, and what’s left to be done so that we can achieve the future we wish to make for ourselves. There’s a lot to be done. And time is passing.
We know that we’re on the eve of the election we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. The messages politicians will serve us will reassure while simultaneously trying to scare us. There are those, of course, who are particularly adept at this trick. It’s going to take a certain amount of composure and self-control to resist the siren’s song and remember what we’ve been put through these past years.
The Québécois people are going through a difficult time. They’ve found the last months difficult, torn between two warring sides both looking for their support. Against all expectations, they voted NDP at the last federal election, certainly due to their desire for change. Hoping also, undoubtedly, to block the conservative voices coming out of western Canada – with whom they see themselves as having little in common. And so they find themselves, albeit unintentionally, with an opposition with practically no power and a ruling party with absolute control and the intention of using it since no one can stop them for at least four years. In politics, that’s just how things go.
It’s obvious that the Québécois people are less and less Canadian. Two lost referendums later, they self-identify as Québécois. And given the federal governments recent shameful behaviour on the international scene, they are more and more ashamed to present their Canadian passports at international borders.
The Quebecois are a unique people. They’ve always been cut in two: Canadian or Québécois, French or English, city or country, rich or poor, federalist or seperatist. More recently, they’ve had to choose between left or right, as though it were impossible to choose one single identity, nuanced, perhaps, but a single identity that would, at last, allow the eternal wound to close and heal. Finally.
They say we don’t like to argue. I don’t agree. At the same time, the Quebecois are the only people on earth who believe you can make an omelet without breaking any eggs – an original idea, but difficult in practice.
The student awakening
We cannot celebrate our national holiday without first evaluating the mess we, with our own consent, now find ourselves in. I say that it’s with our own consent, because we could have voted differently. We could have gotten involved, instead of choosing to stay away from politics, believing it smelled too bad anyway. Why didn’t we do anything? We practically gave up our right to vote rather than let ourselves be heard, loud and clear. There was no big fight. But there weren’t any omelets either.
We would have needed the student awakening, with their battle for public and accessible education for all, against the commercialization of knowledge, to open our eyes. It would have taken more police mistakes, an abuse of power on the part of the government, lies and manipulation of all kinds, a newfound solidarity, Bill 78, the bar association’s position, lawyers, professors; yes, we would have need all that to open our eyes.
We would have needed the first days of Jacques Duchesneau’s testimony at the Charbonneau commission. Only the tip of the iceberg, his testimony merely served to confirm what we already suspected.
A recent survey by Le Devoir confirmed that a large number of Québécois are willing to give the Liberals a fourth mandate at the next election… only fear of omelets could lead to results like those.
May the national holiday bring them some time to reflect. When we examine the situation, we realize that’s there’s only one thing left: the right to vote. Everything else has been stolen from us. Reason enough not to waste it.
Happy St-Jean Baptiste.
On est peut-être quelque chose comme un grand peuple. [We are maybe something like a significant people.]— René Lévesque, 1976
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.