Caoibec (Québec)

Some Irish Are More Equal Than Others

Dearg Le Fearg: Language Rights Are Civil Rights

Dearg Le Fearg: Language Rights Are Civil Rights

Forgive the “Animal Farm” paraphrase in the title above but it seemed appropriate when contemplating some recent articles written on linguistic equality by Anglophone journalists in Ireland and Canada. The first comes from the newspaper columnist Catherine O’Mahony in the Sunday Business Post where in two pieces she both praises and criticises the Irish language and those who speak it. In a convoluted argument that more or less eats its own tail she arrives at the conclusion that, yes, Irish-speaking citizens and communities in Ireland do face social ostracization for speaking in our nation’s indigenous language and are being pressurised into speaking in English. Her solution to the heretofore unacknowledged oppression of a significant section of the population? Remove the obligation to continue the teaching of Irish language skills to schoolchildren ages 12-18. This of course will lead to a situation where even fewer people will possess any understanding or respect for the Irish language (and more importantly those who speak it). Fascinatingly this is presented as a reasonable solution to the problem of the linguistic oppression of Hibernophones in an Anglophone milieu. While O’Mahony recognises that something is seriously wrong in modern “officially” bilingual Ireland it is obvious that her proposals will simply place another wedge in the ever-widening gap between Irish Ireland and English Ireland.

The second example comes from Canada and the journalist J.J. McCullough writing in the HuffingtonPost:

“The other night I had a bit of a Twitter tussle with Paul Wells, beloved Maclean’s political commentator.

To make a not terribly interesting story short, Paul sent out a tweet written in English linking to a blog written in French, and it grabbed my attention simply because it was the most recent instance of a tic I’ve noticed a fair bit from establishment-type journalists based in the eastern provinces: happily tweeting (or retweeting) in French, in glib indifference to the fact that very few of their followers could possibly be expected to understand.

According to the 2011 census, only 17 per cent of Canadians claim fluency in both official languages. An English journalist who tweets in French is thus purposely engaging in a weird sort of audience-alienating behaviour, and I’ve never understood precisely what motivates it.

Not that I begrudge anyone who’s proud they can do it, given that knowledge of French is the price of admission to the upper echelons of the Canadian elite.

Justin Trudeau once quipped that non-bilinguals are simply “lazy,” a Marie Antoinette-like bit of victim-blaming (“Let them learn French!”) popular with segments of the Canadian elite who simply can’t fathom why more peasants can’t find the time to study an exotic dying language utterly irrelevant to their daily lives.

Journalists and academics have long played a role in this “unilingual shaming” as well, posting long, untranslated French quotations in books or articles, excessively praising the merits of being “fluently bilingual” when evaluating the suitability of potential leaders, and of course, drifting in and out of French in supposedly public forums before overwhelmingly unilingual, English audiences  –  including social media.

People can speak  –  and tweet  –  in whatever language they want, but Canada’s second-class, 83 per cent majority have equal right to recoil from an overzealous, ostracizing culture of bilingualism, which is not, nor has ever been, rational, given the demographic realities of this overwhelmingly English country.”

A linguistic minority who function as a privileged elite in society secretly exercising the levers of power and oppressing the majority? A dying language no one speaks? Sound familiar? Given the opinions regular expressed by Anglophone journalists in Ireland I’ll call this the “Irish theory”.

[ASF: With thanks to Sinéad Rohan and Jean François Joubert]

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The Partition Of Québec

A partitioned Québec. The "British solution" to a Québec vote for independence

A partitioned Québec. The “British solution” to a Québec vote for independence

The one thing that stands out when you examine the ideological underpinnings of British nationalism (or Unionism) and Canadian nationalism (or Federalism) is the commonalities they share when it comes to dealing with those territories Britain and Canada “acquired” in times past. For the British (or rather the English) the island nation of Ireland – Free and Occupied – continues to provide no end of existential angst. Britain’s first and last colony is so tied up with Anglo-British notions of racial, linguistic and cultural superiority that one wonders what on earth they will do when the tattered remnant of that last colony soon disappears into the pages of history. A Scotland free of London rule provides a similar challenge to the mental hegemony of Greater England, albeit to a less bellicose degree. On the North American continent it is Québec’s tortured relationship with Canada that provides some seriously dysfunctional – and militant – thinking in what we would call “Unionist” circles.

So, given that Britain’s answer to the pro-independence votes by the people of the island of Ireland was the deliberate crippling and impoverishment of their nation through the imposition of “partition”, it is hardly surprising that this “solution” is being suggested for Scotland as well. What is more surprising is that some sabre-rattling Canadian Federalists favour this idea too. Though in this case their target is of course Québec. From the National Post newspaper:

“So how should our federal government respond if a referendum is called by a re-elected Parti Québécois?

Have the courage to tell Quebec, flat out, that if Canada is divisible, so is Quebec. And whatever clear voting standard is used to adjudicate the overall result of the province’s referendum will be the same result used to adjudicate the status of the province’s northern Cree regions, the Eastern Townships, and, most importantly, Montreal.

Which is to say: If 60% of Quebcers somehow can be convinced to vote for separation, while 60% of Montrealers vote to retain the status quo, then Ottawa should partition Montreal as part of sovereign Canada, free of Quebec’s parochial language laws, ethnic demagoguery and dead-end economic policies.

Partition wouldn’t be about Canada making any sort of land grab, even if that is how separatists would describe it. Partition would be about fulfilling our historical and constitutional obligations to Canadians — especially Anglophones and immigrants — who have grown up in this country expecting their government to respect basic rights (especially those pertaining to language and religion). Since Quebec’s separatists have shown that they have no intention of respecting these rights — indeed, that are willing to ostentatiously flout these rights as a means to appeal to the worst instincts of Québécois voters — the federal government must signal that it will act decisively when the votes are counted.

It is fine for jaded Canadians in Toronto and Calgary to say they’re tired of Quebec’s complaints, and that the province can just “go its own way” if it likes. But there are several million people living in Quebec who oppose their provincial government’s separatist agenda, and they may soon be looking to Ottawa for vindication of their rights. In the unlikely event that the separatists win a referendum, the voices of these Canadians must not be ignored.”

Yes, because the imposition of a “border” cutting off parts of southern and eastern Québec from the rest of the Francophone nation will certainly go well. Crimea with a Canadian accent.

Like I said, seriously dysfunctional thinking.

The Self-Determination Spring

Québécois

Québécois

Despite (or perhaps because of) all the controversy surrounding the proposals by the Parti Québécois to restrict the display of overtly religious symbols in public workplaces the formerly lacklustre PQ government in Québec is now riding high in the polls. Unsurprisingly rumours of a snap election are circulating in both the Francophone and Anglophone media, albeit much to the alarm of the latter. From the Globe and Mail, a Canadian “Unionist” newspaper:

“It is as sure as anything can be in politics: Quebec Premier Pauline Marois will call an election on March 11 for a vote on April 14. And why wouldn’t she? According to the latest CROP poll published Tuesday in La Presse, the Parti Québécois is virtually assured of winning a majority.

This poll confirms the tendency shown by previous polls conducted by different firms over the past few months: the gradual rise of the PQ government’s popularity and the corresponding downfall of the Opposition Liberals, who are losing ground under the ineffective leadership of Philippe Couillard.

This turn of events is surprising for those who remember how demoralized the PQ government was a year ago, but there are explanations: The Charter on secularism boosted the PQ among francophones, especially older ones and those living outside Montreal, who resent the visible presence of Muslim immigrants [ASF: a dubious explanation to say the least. Though initially unpopular the suggested legislation has also found some support amongst young urban voters who don’t see it as an anti-Moslem policy but a pro-secular one]; while catering to the conservative nationalist voters with its identity politics, the government has acquired some credibility on the economic front by silencing its radical environmentalist wing and making peace with the mining companies. Ms. Marois now appears to be an enthusiastic promoter of foreign investment and development, including the exploration of oil fields that might exist in the province, and the pipeline project to bring tar-sands oil to the east.

If the PQ wins a majority of seats, it will be free to pass the two controversial bills that were blocked by the opposition: the charter bill that restricts the rights of religious minorities, and the language bill that will force the “francization” of small enterprises. Will it push for sovereignty? It will certainly try to, but on this issue, everything will depend on the polls. The PQ will never again call for a referendum it isn’t sure of winning handsomely.”

While some Canadian nationalists/federalists still cling to the hope that another referendum campaign is untenable given the current economic climate others are facing up to a much more likely reality – given the “Self-Determination Spring” sweeping Europe, from Scotland to Catalonia, it is highly improbable that Québec will be far behind those other would-be nation-states.

Meanwhile in Ireland, when is a British Unionist (and separatist) politician not a British Unionist (and separatist) politician? The seemingly logical, if actually fallacious, argument about nationality versus socio-economic self-preservation is one many Québécois will find wearily familiar.

I’m Not A Racist But…

Hating people who speak Irish is not racist, sure it's just a bit of fun...

Hating people who speak Irish is not racist, sure it’s just a bit of fun…

One of the more amusing spectator sports of recent months has been derived from watching the seething antipathy expressed by the anglophone and federalist media in Canada towards the governing Parti Québécois in the province of Québec. It goes far beyond mere political animus and into the realms of existential angst as many “Unionist” Canadians battle with a desire to retain their continent-spanning federation in its present form versus an obvious wish to see the Francophone component of that essentially Anglophone nation ejected forthwith.

Everything, politics, economics, culture and history, is fair game in this war of wills. So we are told by a leading national newspaper in Canada that “only” 33% of non-Francophones in Québec support its laws guaranteeing French-language rights, in particular the so-called Bill 101. Given that non-French speakers constitute around 19% of the total population in the province one might think it pretty good that nearly a third are supportive of language protection. But no. While there has been some understandable controversy in recent years over the manner in which the regulations under the Charter of the French Language have been upheld there seems little doubt that without it the Francophone population of Québec would have succumbed to the pressures of its Anglophone neighbours decades ago. If not voted into law in the 1970s there would be no 80% plus French-speaking majority in Québec or anything close to it. Economic and social bullying, and above all else the institutional discrimination of an Anglophone establishment would have ensured that by now we would have witnessed the cultural extinction of a French-speaking population of six million men, women and children.

Which is perhaps a lesson for us here in Ireland. When “shock-jock” presenters on popular Anglophone radio stations can claim with no fear of legal repercussion that parents who raise their children through Irish are engaged in “child-abuse” for doing so or that the Irish language “problem” will end when the last speaker of Irish dies then one must wonder if the aim of some on this island nation is also the “extinction” of a population they find troublesome.

[With thanks to An Lorcánach]

The Winds Of Change – Catalonia And Québec

An Chatalóin (Catalonia)

An Chatalóin (Catalonia)

The drive for autonomy seems to be in the air. We begin with news from the resurgent Iberian nation of Catalonia where the leaders of the main Nationalist parties have agreed on a date for the upcoming independence referendum (albeit with a two-part question to quell the nerves of the conservative CiU government in Barcelona). From the Irish Times:

“After two days of discussions between the parties, Catalan regional premier Artur Mas announced yesterday that the vote will be held on November 9th, 2014.

The referendum question will be in two parts, the first being: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?” If the answer to this is yes, another question follows: “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state?”

“This has great historical importance,” Mr Mas said of the agreement. It will be voted on by the Catalan regional parliament, which pro-independence parties control.

The regional premier’s own CiU coalition and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) have been the political driving forces behind the referendum plan and the ICV greens and left-wing CUP parties also signed off on the accord.

Recent polls show that a narrow majority of Catalans would vote in favour of independence.

However, the two-part question is less strident than some pro-independence factions wanted. It appears to keep the door open to a federal “third way” solution advocated by some, while placating some less independence-minded members of the CiU coalition.”

Both questions seem all but identical and it is hard to escape the feeling that it may well confuse some voters at the polls to the detriment of the independence movement. While recognising a number of “autonomous” regions the Spanish constitution does not support the creation of “federal states” nor is it likely too. So what effect would a vote favouring the former question have?

Caoibec (Québec)

Caoibec (Québec)

Meanwhile in Québec the nationalist Parti Québécois is riding high in the polls despite the ongoing controversy over its plans for a more secular face to public services in La Belle Province. From a report by the “unionist” Globe and Mail newspaper:

“Sovereignty doesn’t appear on the Parti Québécois’s Christmas wish list for this year, but a new public opinion poll has given it renewed hope for the future.

In fact, many Quebeckers already see themselves as politically independent, said Minister of International Affairs Jean-François Lisée, while commenting on a CROP poll showing support for sovereignty at 44 per cent, a three-point increase over the previous CROP poll in November.

The distance between Quebec and Canada is growing. It is as though at many levels Quebec is already independent in its mind, in its way of making decisions,” Mr. Lisée said.

Mr. Lisée called it the “decanadianization” of Quebec and the “dequebecization” of Canada, comparing the relationship to that of an old couple on the brink of divorce.

The PQ minority government is not planning to hold a referendum on political independence any time soon. But the temptation to hold an election early next year may become irresistible if support for the government continues to grow.

The CROP poll published Wednesday in the Montreal daily La Presse and Quebec City’s Le Soleil shows the PQ and the Liberals in a tie at 35 per cent, followed by the Coalition Avenir Québec at 18 per cent and Québec Solidaire at 10 per cent. After 15 months in office, the PQ minority government’s approval rating has jumped to 41 per cent, an increase of nine percentage points over the previous month.

The PQ has also increased its support among the key francophone voters who decide the fate of governments in the province, according to the poll. According to the poll, the PQ now has the support of 40 per cent of francophone voters, compared with 27 per cent for the Liberals and 20 per cent for the CAQ. The government’s approval rating has jumped from a low of 28 per cent last June to 41 per cent in December.”

The rise in support for independence has been marked by increasing tensions in Québec’s “culture wars” with the Anglophone media’s antipathy to Francophones reaching levels not seen in many years. As a result over one hundred leading figures in the nascent nation from the worlds of entertainment, business and politics have signed a document calling for an end to Francophobia from the Anglophone community both locally and in Canada as a whole.

Québécois Secularism Rattles Canadian Unionism

Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Québécois

Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Québécois (Íomhá: The Guardian)

The debate in Québec over Bill 60 or the proposed Charter of Values, secularist legislation being advocated by the ruling Parti Québécois (or PQ), is throwing up all sorts of interesting political phenomena. On one hand it is reviled by Canada’s Anglophone news media and federalist (“unionist”) establishment, as seen in a controversial opinion piece published in the New York Times comparing the liberal, centre-left PQ to the “Tea Party” movement in the United States. However on the other the hand the more English Canada rails against what it deems to be an “anti-multicultural” law the more people in Québec itself seem in favour, with majority support amongst Francophones and from a not insignificant minority of Anglophones.

The main Canadian parties and their Québec offshoots or sister organisations have up to now been steadfast in their opposition to PQ’s proposals but provincial polls have caused cracks to appear in the federalist façade. The Liberal Party of Québec seems to be floating the idea of supporting a weaker previously suggested version of the bill, quite contrary to their pronouncements of recent months. The National Democratic Party or NDP which relies heavily on Québec for its electoral existence is again making sympathetic noises about accepting a 50%+1 vote on independence in the majority French-speaking country (up to now Canadian federalists insisted that any vote on full autonomy for Québec required a substantial if yet to be agreed upon percentage in favour). While many feel that Pauline Marois’ leadership of the PQ has been less than inspiring up to now she has certainly set the vote-winning cat amongst the federalist pigeons and they are all of a flutter.

It remains to be seen whether this, and other avowedly separatist policy programmes, will pay off in provincial elections which may well be called early if the electoral wind blows favourably for the current minority PQ government.

If It Is Good Enough For Canada

No Irish Allowed!

No Irish Allowed!

Justin Trudeau is probably the nearest thing Canadians have to some home-grown royalty of their own (as opposed to the Germano-English variety). The photogenic son of the influential former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who led an English Canada kicking and screaming into the policy of official bilingualism in the late 1960s, he became the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in April of this year with much fanfare and hoo-hah. A federalist with a strong Francophone background he has balanced precariously on the related issues of language rights and Québec’s demands for greater autonomy versus the wishes of Canada’s predominantly anglophone population and federalist (or as we would say here, “Unionist”) political culture. So it is interesting to see his recent comments on the necessity of a strong monolingual Francophone population (principally in Québec itself) to make official bilingualism a successful reality across the continent.

From the Canadian Jewish News:

“Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Quebec must be French “first and foremost” and that can be achieved without diminishing anglophone rights.

Speaking at an appearance at Le Mood, The Festival of Unexpected Jewish Learning, Arts and Culture, held Nov. 3, Trudeau said his point of view differs from that of his late father, who envisioned a bilingual Canada from coast to coast.

“Like my father, I believe in a bilingual Canada, but over the years, after living in Quebec and being an MP… I’ve come to understand… that in order for Canada to be bilingual, Quebec has to be French first and foremost, and that doesn’t mean taking away from many or any of the rights of English speakers,” he said.

Trudeau said there is a “mainstream culture” in Quebec that has to be protected and can’t be compared to the culture of English Canada, which he feels is too much under the sway of the United States.

Trudeau drew a standing-room only audience at the day-long event, and he received repeated applause and shouts of approval from the mainly young crowd. Afterward, he was besieged for photographs.”

Could you imagine the leader of a major political party in Ireland pledging unambiguously to implement official bilingualism in this nation by protecting and increasing the nation’s monolingual Hibernophone population? Could you imagine the leader of a major political party in Ireland declaring that regions of the country must be Irish-speaking first and foremost?

No. neither could I.

Is The PQ’s Secular Charter A Vote-Winner?

Québécois

Québécois

Following on from my post here about the controversy surrounding suggested new regulations in Québec promoting greater secularism in the public workplace this is a surprise. From The Star in Canada:

“Québec’s proposed ban on the wearing of religious symbols has drawn criticism from across the country, but a new poll suggests it has strong support in the province.

The measures designed by the minority Parti Québécois government to underscore Québec’s secular nature may also now have the political support necessary to pass the legislation into law in the coming months.

The so-called charter of Québec values, to be unveiled in the coming weeks, proposes barring public servants from wearing veils, kippas, turbans and even crucifixes while at work. A leaked report last week said the measures would apply to anyone who draws their salary from the public purse: bureaucrats, lawyers, police officers, teachers, and even doctor and nurses.

…the PQ plan got a boost Monday with the results of an opinion poll showing that two out of every three respondents believed there are “too many accommodations” for religious groups in Québec. A majority of French-speakers surveyed said they backed the ban while a majority of anglophones and allophones, whose mother tongue is neither French nor English, were strongly opposed to the proposed measures.

But with a provincial election likely less than one year away, Premier Pauline Marois’ party appears to be on solid footing with potential voters — a conclusion that was confirmed Monday when third-party Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault said his caucus would support the broad themes of the government’s plan.”

However those figures are hardly decisive with just 57% of Québec voters supporting the concept. On the other hand 65% of Francophones and 25% of Anglophones approve of the plan.

Québec: Polls And Secularism

Le Presse-CROP poll August 2013 (Íomhá: threehundredeight.com)

Le Presse-CROP poll August 2013 (Íomhá: threehundredeight.com)

Mixed polling news from Québec where Pauline Marois’ ruling Parti Québécois has recorded a slight rise in popularity but is still well behind the opposition Liberal Party, a Canadian federalist or “Unionist” party. From the survey by Le Presse-CROP:

40% Québec Liberal Party - Parti libéral du Québec

29% Parti Québécois

20% Coalition Avenir Québec

7% Québec solidaire 

2% Option nationale

2% Others 

As always in Québec there are big differences in the communal vote with 93% of Anglophones supporting the Liberals. Three Hundred Eight has the details and some excellent analysis of what they mean. Meanwhile the PQ government is floating the idea of introducing new laws encouraging faith-neutral public workspaces. While in general this is a positive move the regulations may include far less positive rules banning the display of personal religious symbols or emblems such as turbans, niqabs, kippas, hijabs and crucifixes. Even an aggressively pro-secular atheist like myself finds it hard to disagree with the sentiments expressed in an interview over at the Montréal Gazette:

“As Quebec prepares legislation that would further restrict religious symbols, a borough mayor wants Montreal to urge the PQ government to define secularism in a way that is “inclusive and open” and recognizes Montreal’s diversity.

Lionel Perez, interim mayor of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, said Tuesday that a motion to that effect will be discussed at Monday’s city council meeting.

“We need a secularism that reflects Quebec’s new pluralistic demographics,” said Perez, whose borough is home to about 100 cultural communities.”

Parti Québécois, Power For Power’s Sake?

Québécois

Québécois

Hard to disagree with this description of the Parti Québécois by Jean-Martin Aussant, former PQ politician and disillusioned ex-leader of the rival Option Nationale, in an interview from Canada’s National Post newspaper:

“Mr. Aussant, 43, was first elected under the Parti Québécois banner in 2008, but he soon lost patience with what he saw as the party’s half-hearted commitment to sovereignty. In 2011, he was among a group of PQ MNAs who came close to torpedoing Pauline Marois’ leadership when they quit the caucus.

He formed Option Nationale the same year and attracted 8,000 members. He was popular among young voters and during last year’s election campaign was endorsed by former PQ Premier Jacques Parizeau. Still, with no place in the televised leaders’ debate and the PQ urging a strategic vote to defeat the Liberals, the new party was unable to win a seat.

Mr. Aussant said he has no regrets about leaving the PQ. “The institution itself has become a professional political machine oriented towards winning an election. If they conclude that talking less about sovereignty will make them win, then they won’t say a word about sovereignty,” he said.

“I could not work in that context because I was there for sovereignty. I admit, it might be harder winning an election with that as a central theme, but that’s what a leader has to do.”

Looking back on 11 months of PQ minority government, he sees no progress towards independence. Instead, he said, the PQ government is treading water, concerned mainly with avoiding defeat.”

Some of that sounds familiar (very familiar).

Catalonia, Scotland And Québec

An Chatalóin (Catalonia)

An Chatalóin (Catalonia)

Couple of articles looking at the faltering fortunes of the sovereignty movements in Scotland and Québec when compared to the dynamism readily observable in their Catalan equivalents. The first comes from Patrick West in the contrarian Spiked and reflects a broadly British Unionist Nationalist viewpoint:

“On the face of it, Spain and the United Kingdom have much in common. Both are maritime, quasi-federal states and former empire-builders, who in the post-war era have faced the prospect of disintegration, as peoples in their peripheral nations have sought varying degrees of separation. In each case, the largest central nation, Castile and England, has resisted violent campaigns of national liberation, in the Basque country and Northern Ireland respectively. That’s why the IRA and ETA made common cause: it’s normal for separatist groups to forge such allegiances. It’s also the reason why the two nationalist movements in countries now seeking peaceful means of withdrawal, Catalonia and Scotland, have paid much attention to each other’s fortunes. No wonder that Catalan leaders have been looking seriously at holding their referendum at about the same time as Scotland’s, which takes place on 18 September 2014.

Is such a comparison valid, though? Is an alliance between Catalonia and Scotland useful? In each case, I would say no and no. The reality that Scotland is looking increasingly likely to vote ‘no’ is bad news for the Catalan independence movement. If ‘Catalonia is not Spain’, as the familiar banner reads, it isn’t Scotland, either.

It’s not entirely coincidental that the Catalan parliament announced a referendum in January, 12 months after London agreed to one in Scotland. Catalans have been greatly enthused by the progress made by the Scottish National Party (SNP) under the charismatic Alex Salmond. Yet it has increasingly become an unreciprocated love affair. Salmond has so far kept his distance. There’s no point in making enemies with Madrid at this stage, as, unlike London, a belligerent Madrid has not agreed to an official referendum and the outcome in Catalonia isn’t binding.

The realisation that Scotland will probably vote ‘no’ (support for independence is at around 30 per cent and falling) is causing many in Catalonia, where secessionists make up a 70 per cent majority, to have a rethink. In January, the influential, left-leaning internet news site VilaWeb made known its concerns: ‘In Scotland, the process is practically exclusively led by the Scottish National Party, which is opposed by an ideologically diverse coalition’, wrote the site’s editor Vicent Partal. ‘In Catalonia, by contrast – and this became clear in the last election – the people don’t want a single party or a single leader to run the process.’”

While there is much of interest in the opinion piece it is just that: opinion, and Britnat opinion to boot. Still, definitely worth a read. The second article comes from Konrad Yakabuski in Canada’s Globe and Mail:

“What do you get when you’ve got a conservative prime minister embroiled in scandal who is so deeply unpopular in the province currently run by sovereigntists that he keeps driving voters into the arms of the secessionists?

The Parti Québécois might wish we were talking about Stephen Harper, whom sovereigntists consider their best weapon in the quest for Quebec independence. But the PQ has been unable to translate Quebeckers’ aversion toward Mr. Harper and his policies into sovereigntist support.

That’s not the case in Catalonia, where Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, his centre-right People’s Party and the region’s secessionist government are on a collision course that looks set to culminate in an independence referendum in 2014. While Anglo-Saxons focus on Scotland’s independence vote, most of the rest of the world – and especially Quebec – will have its eyes on Catalonia.

The odds of major political upheaval seem much higher in Catalonia, where more than two-thirds support outright independence or more autonomy from Madrid. As beleaguered Spain’s most prosperous region, with bustling Barcelona as its capital and a distinct language as its cultural glue, a new arrangement with Spain is increasingly sought by Catalonians. Nearly 100,000 of them filled a soccer stadium last month chanting, “Catalonia is not Spain.” Fifteen times that many – one-fifth of the Catalan population – marched for independence in Barcelona last September.

This is one more major problem for Mr. Rajoy, whose leadership has already been sapped by a 27-per-cent unemployment rate and voter discontent with the budget cuts he’s imposed to meet deficit targets set by the European Union.

As bad as it is, the economic crisis isn’t even the biggest threat to Mr. Rajoy. The corruption scandal consuming his party – and dominating the national media – has left him mired in political quicksand. The Prime Minister faces allegations that he received potentially illegal payments from a slush fund set up by a former People’s Party treasurer who is now in prison awaiting trial on fraud and money-laundering charges. Mr. Rajoy denies the allegations, but the scandal won’t soon die.”

Though it is quite possible that by the end of 2014 the Spanish state as we presently know it will be well on its way to dying.

Sinn Féin, The SDLP And The Québec Comparison

Québécois

Québécois

Several commentators, including myself, have recently speculated about the possibility of Sinn Féin and the SDLP maximising the regional Nationalist vote in the north-east of Ireland through the fielding of agreed or joint-candidates in a number of marginal constituencies at the next Stormont Assembly elections (and possibly Westminster). This has come about as a response to the decision by the DUP and UUP, the two main British Unionist parties, to aggressively target Assembly seats through “unitary” candidates in order to minimise Nationalist representation.  It also reflects the greater possibilities opened up to Irish Nationalism in the north of the country by the emergence of smaller rival Unionist parties, including the new NI1921 and the existing Alliance Party. In all at least nine Unionist political groupings are expected to contest the next series of elections (the DUP, UUP, APNI, TUV, UKIP, PUP, BNP, NI1921 and the NI Conservatives) which might well scatter the votes for individual Pro-Union parties.

In such a divisive electoral situation for Unionism the case for an agreement between Nationalist parties grows all the more relevant. A similar situation exists of course in Québec where in recent times a splintered Nationalist vote has aided Federalist (Canadian Unionist) parties. Now that fault line may about to be sealed, as reported by CTV News:

“In an effort to increase the odds of a pro-sovereignty party winning in each riding for the next provincial election, leaders of sovereignty groups are seeking to place one sovereignist candidate in each riding.

The Nouveau mouvement pour le Quebec and the Conseil de la souverainete want to hold primaries in each riding to choose one candidate, regardless of their party.

Support for the Parti Quebecois, Option nationale and Quebec solidaire parties currently add up to roughly 40 per cent.

The groups plan to hold a major conference of all sovereignty supporters early next year.”

So is it time to have a serious discussion about where Nationalism in the north-east of Ireland wishes to be in three years time. In the driving seat or the passenger one?

Language Wars – Coming To A Sign Near You Soon

Sign of Albain or Scotland

Alba – Albain – Scotland

More new from the Pax Anglia, via the Dunfermline Press:

“… councillor Dave Dempsey is proposing that road signs in Fife be in English-only.

His motion, “Council agrees that there is no need, point or advantage in road signs in Fife being in any other language or languages than English” went before fellow councillors yesterday (Thursday).

It was prompted by press reports last month of a £350,000 plan to promote Gaelic in Perth and Kinross and Councillor Dempsey now hopes to “lay down a policy marker”.

[Dempsey said] “Gaelic was never really spoken in Fife – it’s spoken in other parts of Scotland but not really when you get this far south and east.

“I understand the need to keep the language in existence but language is used to communicate and everybody can speak English.”

Yes, well colonisation does tend to end up with the natives foregoing their own language and adopting that of the overlord – just so they and their children, and their children’s children, can survive to see another day. Not to mention that there is little point in keeping a language in “existence” if no one is allowed to use it – because they are told that they must use English instead as Councillor Dempsey suggests.

Meanwhile some good news from Wales for at least one of the indigenous Celtic languages of the island of Britain. From a report in the Daily Post: 

“WELSH children are twice as likely to speak the language than pensioners or those of working age figures from the 2011 census reveal.

The figures show that across Wales, 37.6% of under 16s are now able to speak Welsh, compared to 15.5% of 16-64s and 16.2% of over 65s.

The discrepancy between different areas of the nation are evident, with 89.1% of Gwynedd children speaking Welsh –  compared with  22.7% in Merthyr Tydfil.

Interestingly, it’s also revealed that women are more likely to speak the language than men.

It’s also proven that national identity plays a large role on one’s ability to speak the language or not.

A quarter of people who identify themselves as Welsh, also classed themselves as Welsh speakers, and two-fifths of those who identify as Welsh and British can speak the language.

Unsurprisingly, the popularity of Welsh medium education has seen a huge rise in parts of the South Wales valleys, with children in Blaenau Gwent being 23 times more likely to speak the language than a pensioner in the same area.”

Wales Online has more analysis.

Québec

Québec

Finally from Québec an open letter published today in the English language Montréal Gazette written by the province’s Language Minister Diane de Courcy and the liaison with the Anglophone community Jean-Francois Lisée, both from the ruling PQ party. It deals with the wide range of opinions expressed in recent months around Bill 14 which will expand legislation protecting the rights of the province’s francophone majority and encouraging French language use amongst the English-speaking minority and new immigrant communities. Sensibly the new series of regulations will accommodate the concerns expressed by the anglophone and bilingual communities of some towns and municipalities.

The Journey of Nishiyuu – Indigenous Rights In Canada And Québec

The Journey of Nishiyuu - Supporting the Idle No More movement in Canada and Québec

The Journey of Nishiyuu – Supporting the Idle No More movement in Canada and Québec

Some more news on the continuing protests by the indigenous peoples of Canada as they seek to build on the momentum created by the Idle No More movement and the recent hunger strike by the Theresa Spence. From the Star:

“On the frozen shores of Hudson’s Bay in January, a small group of Great Whale Cree strapped on their mukluks, pulled on their parkas and set out on an epic and frigid journey on foot to Ottawa.

Drawing inspiration from Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence during her fast more than 1,500 kilometres to the south, six youth and a 49-year-old master hunter decided they too wanted to do something to draw attention to aboriginal issues and joined the ad hoc actions of the Idle No More movement taking place all over the country.

Almost two months after they departed Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuaraapik, Que., in –40 C weather, the walkers have covered more than 1,000 kilometres and rallied about 100 people to join them from communities along the way. 

On March 25 the marchers expect to reach Parliament Hill, where New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou) will gather a welcoming party to greet them.”

The Journey of Nishiyuu - supporting indigenous rights and the Idle No More movement in Canada and Québec

The Journey of Nishiyuu – supporting indigenous rights and the Idle No More movement in Canada and Québec

You can view more details here at the dedicated website, Journey of Nishiyuu, or at First Peoples World Wide.

The Rising Stars Of Québec Nationalism

Québec solidaire

Québec solidaire

Interesting article on the two rising stars of political nationalism in Québec both of which have begun to challenge the traditional dominance of the Parti Québécois (PQ) when it comes to eliciting support from the province’s separatist-minded voters. The first is the left-wing Option nationale, led by Jean-Martin Aussant, a party that is attracting a younger more dynamic generation of pro-independence activists, not to mention some high profile defectors from the PQ itself. The other is Québec solidaire, led by Amir Khadir, another party to the left of PQ which is also enjoying greater success with younger voters.

Meanwhile this pointed description of his forthcoming visit to “Canada and Québec” by the French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault may signal an interesting turn of diplomatic attitudes in Paris away from the somewhat hostile anti-separatist approach favoured by former President Nicolas Sarkozy.