Current Affairs Politics

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.

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