A true test of character is often demonstrated by how one acts when they are under stress or in an uncomfortable situation. In the case of the two oppostion political parties in Quebec - the Action Democratique (ADQ) and the Parti Quebeçois (PQ) - character is certainly not at a premium. With both parties fairing poorly since Liberal Party leader Jean Charest decided that people in Quebec have a perpetual election fetish (not), he decided to break the deadlock in minority rule, provincial politics by calling an election on December 8, hoping that only the rich and powerful (many of his supporters) will feel enfranchised enough to go to the polls, while people whose lives are essentially unaffected will stay home. While this may prove to be an example of disatrous folly (another naked emperor, Robert Bourassa, did the same thing in 1976 and ushered in the first PQ government), it has also picked at the scab of the debate on reasonable accommodation that seemed only recently to be healing.
With a new Quebec school curriculum promising courses in world religions, ethics, and culture, ADQ leader Mario Dumont has decided to reopen the aforementioned debate by challening the effect it will have on children who will be deprived of an understanding of their own origins.
"The people who thought up this course are the same people who fight through all kind of roundabout ways to ensure there aren't any Christmas trees in the classroom," Dumont let fly to a room full of parents opposed to the new course.
"Children in primary school must first forge their own identity. You must learn about yourself to then be open towards others."
Funny, this never worked in the past. Many people who had a wonderful sense of their own history and culture used this as a springboard to destroy those who they felt did not belong. On November 11, we honour those who have died in past wars on Rememberance Day. Wars are often fought for money and power, but also to vanquish a perceived enemy who does not share cultural and religious values. It is also the anniversary of Kristallnacht , another example of how a dominant people, despite having a perceived strong sense of their own identity, used this as a conduit to destroy a minority whose religious and cultural values differed from theirs. Identity is not the issue - I would bet self-esteem has a lot more to do with it. Monsieur Dumont should concentrate on examples of how Quebec has demonstrated tolerance and acceptance in the past as a sprinboard to understanding how the knowledge of other cultural and religious norms should be part of a sense of being truly "Quebeçois". Funny, for a man who attended the wonderfully multicultural Concordia University in Montreal, one has a sense that his politics of division reflect less his own experience and personal view, and more the cynical vision of a power hungry politician who feels his unsophisticated electorate cannot handle anything else but the tired old "us vs.them" scenario. Sadly, I have met many West End Anglophones with the same ideals, not to mention English Canadians and their view of Quebec in general. I think we all need to take the new course in question - it might help us to understand how our collective vision of ourselves and the world is fundamentally the same.