Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
April 9, 2007
Fear of the unknown taints Que. election
The surge of the Action d‚mocratique du Quebec to official opposition status in last month's Quebec election was greeted with sighs of relief that Quebeckers are turning their backs on separatism. Such a view seems to be at the very least premature given the ADQ's call for what other Canadians had always thought was a province to be known as "the Autonomous State of Quebec."
As well, the ADQ drew heavily on a backlash against "reasonable accommodation" of the traditions of religious and ethnic minorities.
It is hard to resist the view that separatism or autonomy is linked with a xenophobic, closed view of Quebec society. That was certainly the view of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau who - whatever his faults - argued long and hard against narrow nationalism.
It was only 11 years ago that then-premier Jacques Parizeau blamed the referendum loss on "money and the ethnic vote." Parizeau could just as easily have blamed the defeat on the votes of women and practising Roman Catholics - those groups also voted heavily against separation. However he chose to blame those who were not old stock Quebeckers for the loss.
The greatness of Canada is that it has somewhat consistently welcomed newcomers through its history and has been enriched by their presence. This is particularly true on the Prairies which has a long history of cultural diversity.
If there is a unique Prairie society, it is because of welcoming diversity, not in spite of it. It was here that the United Church was formed to provide "reasonable accommodation" among a spectrum of Protestants.
It was here that the Catholic Women's League was formed to welcome immigrants, not to tell them they must measure up to our standards. It is here that we are proud to have bilingual programs in our schools ranging from Polish to Arabic.
We have had premiers of Ukrainian descent in Alberta and Saskatchewan, a prime minister of German descent from Saskatchewan, a deputy prime minister of Polish descent from Vegreville, and a governor-general of Ukrainian descent from Saskatoon.
Our record is far from pure. Aboriginal people, to take the most blatant example, have been marginalized since the days of white settlement and the situation on many reserves and for many urban native people grows bleaker with each passing year.
Nevertheless, when Pope John Paul II came to Canada in 1984, it was fitting that he spoke on multiculturalism in Winnipeg, the founding city of the Prairies. The pope urged that the openness and generous reception shown to immigrants and refugees "should continue to characterize and enrich Canada in the future as in the past."
Mutual love, not mere tolerance, among various ethnic communities is "an immense power for good," he said. "The pluralism of traditions, pluralism of cultures, pluralism of histories, pluralism of national identities - all of these are compatible with the unity of society."
These are words that should never be forgotten in Canada. When people argue that diversity erodes the unity of society, the Catholic answer is that diversity should be an occasion for strengthening society through mutual love. When our horizons get cramped because we associate too much with our own kind, we should reach out and help those in need.
A hopeful view of Canada would encourage solidarity, not autonomy. It would find ways to deepen our awareness of our common humanity rather than emphasizing that which separates us. Reaching out to the stranger makes us more fully human.
Love makes the circle larger; fear entrenches division. Do not be afraid.
- Glen Argan
Letter to the Editor - 04/30/07
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.