It’s the aftermath of the 2022 Quebec Election and like many people of colour in Quebec, I am in mourning.
I am in mourning because the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) led by François Legault, whose administration over the past five years has been characterized by a rise in hate crimes, the passing of Bills 21 and 96, legislation meant to alienate hardworking Quebeckers for what they wear, how they live, and what language they speak, won a majority in the National Assembly. I am in mourning because a faulty riding system gave rural Quebeckers terrified of non-white, non-Christian, non-French-speaking Quebecois greater representation than the majority of the province’s population. I pity those same voters for failing to see Legault’s race baiting and the similarities between his administration and that of Quebec’s hated past Premier, Maurice Duplessis.
Like Duplessis, Legault repeatedly covers his mistakes and unfulfilled promises by making false claims that non-French speakers and visible minorities are the real threat to Quebec society. Like Duplessis, Legault’s actions are fervently anti-union, behavior that has driven thousands out of the healthcare and teaching professions. His anti-immigration rhetoric has exacerbated an ongoing labour shortage that has business owners in the service, manufacturing, and import-export industries begging the government to admit more people annually.
I grieve because Legault’s refusal to acknowledge systemic racism has been widely interpreted by the worst members of society as permission to discriminate and engage in acts of violence, and resulted in the deaths of people like Joyce Echequan.
As the hate crimes increase, Legault is actively engaging in indoctrination, forcing schools to teach values and history lessons that ignore the contributions of Jews and other groups that have been in Quebec just as long as the French have, if not longer. He changed the political culture by his blatant use of the Notwithstanding Clause in the Canadian Constitution, when it used to be considered a frowned upon last resort.
All the while, his government has been passively undermining the safety and voting power of people under the age of 60. During the pandemic he actively denied access to the vaccine to chronically ill people under 60 who were just as susceptible to COVID as perfectly healthy baby boomers, shifting gears only when public outrage forced his hand. During the election The Coalition Avenir du Québec made no attempt to court young voters because studies showed that those who vote don’t vote for them.
Though the aftermath has me fearing for my own safety, it is not for myself and other Quebec minorities that I grieve for most. It is for the white Francophone Quebecois who said they would not vote for Legault. The ones from Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Montreal, and small towns in Quebec who refused to buy into the Coalition Avenir du Quebec’s rhetoric, coming forward to say bigotry is not something to be proud of, and backed it up with their votes. Many of these voters have confided in me that they are quietly waiting for the baby boomers to die off, convinced that the electoral system that led to a CAQ majority will not accommodate and respect their needs.
I have always said that a revolution must begin inside and outside the political system. The time to try and make a difference inside the system passed with this election. It is time to fight back from outside of it.
It will not be easy, but there are ways around National Assembly seats and dictatorial leaders out of touch with reality. I’m not just talking about protests and marches. I encourage business leaders hurt by the government’s immigration policies to find a way to sue them for loss of profits.
Social media campaigns to dig up every little harm or illegal dealing by Legault and his government should start immediately so the world can see them for the xenophobes and crooks that they are. Young people should be writing letters, protesting, and demanding changes to a political system that is repeatedly leaving them behind.
Most importantly, we the people need to unite with our French Canadian allies and show the world that the CAQ does not represent the majority of Quebeckers. Diversity is strength, and bigotry brings only shame and economic adversity.
The fight is only over when WE say it is.
No more turning the other cheek.