Lucien Bouchard Will Have Blood on His Hands If Violence Erupts

Article excerpt

Lucien Bouchard will have blood on his hands if the quest for an independent, ethnic Quebec turns violent.

Not that the premier seeks or wants violence and bloodshed. That must certainly be far from his intent. But he is playing a reckless and dangerous game. He is deliberately poisoning relations by provoking both Quebec nationalists and the rest of Canada. And he uses all the tools of demagoguery--distortion, deception, exaggeration, misrepresentation, omissions.

In Quebec, he is, as Daniel Johnson claims, inflaming passions and divisiveness, evoking xenophobic nationalism by raking embers of resentment over magnified injustices, injustice usually more imagined than real. And with insults and denigration of "English Canada" he hopes to provoke reaction -- more flagstomping, perhaps -- from the rest of Canada, thereby further fanning the flames of passion.

Those who say that violence is foreign to peaceful Canada, that whatever the rhetoric of ethnic nationalism, it won't lead to violence and bloodshed, forget one thing: it already has.

It is far too early to forget the Front de liberation du Quebec, the infamous FLQ organized in 1963 to seek Quebec's independence by propaganda and terrorism. The FLQ started out by murdering a 65-year-old night watchman in a bomb explosion at a Montreal army recruiting centre. It went on to bigger game: murdering the vice-president of a firearms company during a holdup; kidnapping British trade commissioner James Cross; kidnapping and murdering Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte. Between murders, the FLQ exploded some 200 bombs, injuring scores of people.

It could happen again, and Bouchard's inflammatory rhetoric only increases the odds that it will. Consider his astounding claim that the federal government is out "to belittle Quebec, to overshadow it in every field, to replace it at every opportunity," and all this by "using the billions of dollars it has confiscated from us." Or his assertions about the moral superiority of Quebec democracy compared with the anti-democratic nature of "English Canada's" traditions and institutions. This from a government whose language laws forbidding or restricting the use of other than the French language in signs, in the legislature, and in the courts have been found in violation of democratic rights enshrined by the charter of the United Nations, by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and by Quebec's own Charter of Human Rights.

The "democratic rights" that Bouchard seeks are not democracy but licence: the licence to replace the rule of law with the rule of "the people." Licence to ignore international laws, Canadian laws, Quebec laws -- any laws that stand in the way of the majority. The licence to impose the will of the majority in violation of basic rights of minorities. Licence to replace law with anarchy. The licence that dictators have always used to gain power, "in the name of the people," ever since the dying days of the Roman Republic to the charismatic strong men of today.

The ethnic nationalism that Bouchard fuels is the force that historian James McPherson says nearly destroyed the United States, the force that erupted into the Civil War with his horrific loss of millions of lives. …