The less they know, the louder their voice: just mind your business

TORONTO – As if we Canadians did not have enough distractions. A quasi-judicial hearing into foreign interference in our electoral system was just coming to a conclusion on Friday. Senior government ministers and officials had appeared with seemingly contrasting statements on whether there had been, continues to be or may be surreptitious efforts by foreign entities to insinuate themselves in our affairs. 

One need look no further than the infamous “Vive le Quebec Libre” speech delivered on Canada’s 100th anniversary by Charles De Gaulle, notorious meddler and President de la Republique Francaise. There was nothing secretive about his lack of political couth. But then my perception was that of an immigrant young man making his way to integrate in the Canadian Mosaic.

France had a history, from my perspective, of abandoning its colonials to their own devices once the Wars in North America saw the emergence of first the British, then their anglophone heirs whom the former Aboriginal allies of the French referred to as “yangle” [Yankee]. The francophone settlers post Treaty of Paris, 1763, saw themselves left by the wayside as “mother” France ceded their territory” to Britain.

For the next one hundred years, until the 1860s, they resisted “assimilation” – becoming English in language and in culture – with what historians euphemistically call “la revanche des berceaux”, high birth rates to maintain their numerical dominance and political leverage. They had experienced first-hand the British propensity for ethnic cleansing in Atlantic Canada.

In the 1860s they “teamed up” with Church leaders and other British North American colonies to devise a new form of government [Confederation] which gave them the political assurance to be “masters” in their own house and still be a contributing and respectful partner in this new country. La survivance, despite hiccups, was assured – without outside help.

In today’s complex society, those Francophone co-founders of modern Canada – les quebecois de souche – are definitely masters in their own house (maitres chez nous). Their only connection to France is the language and the meagre trade between them (France sells twice as much to Quebec as it buys from the belle Province).

Some may think that Quebec enjoys a “privileged” position in Canada. True or not depends on the goals and objectives permissible and obtainable under our Constitution. The outcomes of the necessary negotiations may not depend on the “revanche”. StatsCan population figures suggest the province is experiencing what demographers call sub-replacement fertility. One resulting factor, population decline, has increased the anxiety about their cultural/linguistic future among Quebecers.

Here we are 57 years after the exhortation of the great President, the current prime Minister of France, Gabriel Attal decided to insinuate himself in Quebe’s debate re referenda on immigration, secularization and education. According to a Canadian Press report, by Thomas MacDonald, he appears to endorse Premier Legault’s initiative on those fronts but that this does not constitute interference in political debates. Really?

In his own defense, he claimed adherence to the longstanding policy of “non-interference” and “non-indifference”. That sounds like the “cute/sly” famous Canadian equivocation by the Prime Minister to calm the wartime atmosphere : “Conscription if necessary but not necessarily Conscription”. We had conscription.

Francois Legault and M. Gabriel Attal (from Twitter X – @francoislegault)