I don’t have many regrets from my undergraduate days. Would’ve been nice to go skiing a bit more often. Kind of wish I’d spent some time in Quebec City. And the fact that I couldn’t pen a decent response in the McGill Daily to this piece of vapid intellectual masturbation still sticks in my craw. All told, though, a very satisfying experience. That said, the fact that I made it through seven semesters studying IR and Comparative Politics without once taking a course with Stephen Saideman is just inexcusable. Luckily for both my sense of nostalgia and future intellectual development, he has a blog. Read it. It’s quite good.
Today he points out a few instances of Quebec nationalist political practice that move into pretty nasty territory. The initial salvo was evidently fired by a (presumably non-sovereigntist) group protesting Bill 101. The organizing poster referred to Pauline Marois (head of the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois, not to be confused with the Bloc Quebecois that just got eviscerated in national elections) as “Kebekistan’s White Mugabe,” shows a picture of a noose, and just for good measure says “Hang Pauline Marois for humanity’s sake!” Some people really don’t like looking at French websites. In response, a representative from the Michigan-militia-esque Patriotic Militia of Quebec allegedly threatened one of the protest organizers with death. In other words, everyone involved is comporting themselves with dignity and class.
As Saideman notes, this is noteworthy precisely because, apart from a few unpleasant incidents in the 1960s, the movement for Quebec sovereignty has been remarkably free of violence. The FLQ was pretty tepid as far as violent revolutionary groups go (not to discount the very real suffering caused by some of their tactics), and as passionate as some Quebecois remain over the issue of sovereignty, the overall movement seems to have steadily lost momentum since its mid-nineties apex. To me, this raises a few thoughts and questions. First, the trajectory of Quebec nationalist politics would seem (at least superficially) to support the idea that sub-state national movements are essentially reactive responses to modern state building, wherein the construction of robust state apparatuses threatens to rob a minority group of its own means of cultural reproduction, and sovereignty is demanded as a remedy. What makes the Quebec case so interesting is how pliable the Canadian state was willing to be to placate nationalist demands (hence Bill 101 and its sundry accompaniments). This strategy appears to have paid off in cooling the intensity of sovereigntist demands.
The second, somewhat more worrying question is whether there might be an uptick in Quebec nationalist violence (or at least violent, confrontational rhetoric) in the coming decades, as it becomes clear to the remaining hardcore sovereigntist population that their demands won’t be realized through Parliament or the ballot box. Those being left behind by history are seldom quiet about it. More food for thought.