Dan Delmar: Throwing around Quebec’s c-word

National Post | 13/05/07 |

One of the most offensive words in the Québécois lexicon is “colonisé.”

Also abbreviated as “colon” (not the organ, it’s a soft N), it is an adjective hurled at those who have been metaphorically “colonized” by their embrace of the English language.

It’s a word that is used among Francophones casually, in private. In public, it typically is used only by fringe ultra-nationalists, a few rabid radio talk-show hosts, and, last week, an elected member of Quebec’s National Assembly.

In a debate about Bill 14, a language law that might be described as the ugly stepchild of Bill 101, Parti Québécois MNA Daniel Breton objected to Liberals speaking English in the legislature — even though the practice is perfectly permissible, and is done on occasion when legislators are dealing with matters pertaining to Anglo Quebecers.

“I would like to highlight that elected members of the official opposition in the National Assembly expressed themselves in English on the subject of Bill 14, a law on the French language,” Breton said in the legislature (speaking in French, of course). “You might have the right, but it shows to what point you are ‘colonisés.’”

The statement is offensive for a number of reasons. And it shows that Breton knows less about Canadian history than the average high school student.

Francophones were, of course, the colonizers. The true “colonisés” were Aboriginals. Despite the popular myths of ultra-nationalists such as Breton, and their claims to victimhood, Francophones in Canada are not an indigenous people.

Breton’s comments also are consistent with retrograde PQ policies (including Bill 14 itself) that cast multilingualism as a threat to Quebec’s identity, and unilingualism as a mark of true Québécois patriotism.

This is hardly the first time that Breton has attracted controversy. He had a brief stint as Quebec’s environment minister, which ended when it was revealed that he called up the head of Quebec’s public consultation bureau to make it clear that the agency would hear from him if he wasn’t satisfied with their decisions.

To describe a fellow Quebecer as “colonisé” is more than just a cheap insult. It’s a Québécois species of McCarthyism

Breton also was found guilty of three counts of fraud for making false EI declarations in 1988. The co-founder of Quebec’s Green Party, he once was caught speeding in a Porsche at 275km/h. This is the man whom the PQ has chosen to defend one of the most controversial bills in the party’s history.

If the PQ were a normal political party, his behaviour in the National Assembly alone would be enough to have him removed from caucus. He is not fit to represent Quebecers, sovereignists or otherwise.

If the PQ wants to repair its credibility, Premier Pauline Marois must rid her party of those who contribute to hateful, regressive rhetoric. To describe a fellow Quebecer as “colonisé” is more than just a cheap insult. It’s a Québécois species of McCarthyism, and a sad example of how fringe separatist elements are impeding tolerance between Quebec’s two main language communities.

 

Dan Delmar is the co-founder of Provocateur Communications and the co-host of Delmar & Dwivedi on CJAD 800 Montreal.