The PQ, identity and the Front National

The Parti Québécois garners praise from France's notorious anti-immigration party

The recent piece I wrote about the Parti Québécois and identity quotes columnist Jérôme Lussier, who makes a (conditional) comparison between the current incarnation of the PQ and other nationalist parties including Le Front National, the English Defense League and the Sweden Democrats and the Tea Party. It is not a comparison to be made lightly, and in many ways it doesn’t fit. Friend and columnist Patrick Lagacé takes issue, noting (correctly) how the FN would never dream of funding, say, historically Jewish hospitals, or Muslim schools.

Yet as far as the politics of identity are concerned, today’s PQ is certainly more forthright in equating the demise of French language and culture with the influx of immigrants who may not have French as their first language. The argument, put forth by PQ candidate Jean-François Lisée, flies in the face of reality: according to l’Office québécois de la langue française, the number of immigrants learning and living in French has actually increased by over 20 percentage points since 1989; as well, the number of immigrants who speak French upon arrival in Quebec has gone up by nearly 20 percentage points since 2001. You read that correctly: under Jean Charest, the Liberal government has arguably been more effective in recruiting French-speaking immigrants than Bernard Landry. (Sources for these stats are in my piece here.)

Yet despite all evidence to the contrary, the Parti Québécois continues to trade in the canard that French is regressing on the island of Montreal, and its plan to fix this ‘regression’ has the support of France’s Front National. For the record, Lisée best summarized his belief that  immigrants who speak French as a first language are better for Quebec than, say, those who have Mandarin as a mother tongue in the following quote from this interview: “From the moment where there isn’t a majority of people whose first language isn’t French, it means there is no majority to defend it. We can be very attached to our second languages, but I won’t go protest to defend English or Spanish.”

What follows is a brief exchange with Front National Secretary General Steeve Briois. Pay attention to the last line. Note: Briois answered these questions before Lisée’s sortie. As well, the Coalition Avenir Québec says it favours a ‘temporary decrease’ in the number of immigrants for economic, not identity, reasons.

If it forms the next government, the Parti Québécois intends to adopt a charter that establishes “the fundamental values of the Quebec nation regarding its historical patrimony, the predominance of the French language, the equality between men and women and the secularism of public institutions.” Do you think this kind of charter would be useful in France?

I don’t think it would be useful, as it would be announcing principles that are obvious and should be applied naturally. We aren’t counting on the socialists to have these principles respected, and such a charter would only have a moral not a legal value. The only thing that can guarantee these values is having Marine Le Pen and members of the Front National elected.

The Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec intend to reduce the number of immigrants. This is in part because new arrivals are hurting the French fact and Quebec values. Do you think this type of measure would help the cause of Quebec’s language and identity?

Immigration is disastrous for the identity and the culture of a region when it is large-scale and doesn’t include a policy of assimilation. It’s why each country that worries about having its traditions, its spirit, its culture and its values must imperatively regulate the number of immigrants arriving on its territory, and when it accepts a certain number of immigrants, the total assimilation and conversion to the welcoming country must be ensured. Quebec is starting to know similar problems that we are seeing in France, and notably the suburbs of Montreal have nothing to envy to those of Paris. The PQ is therefore in taking a healthy step for the future of Quebec and its identity.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.