The Fractured Nation Interviews

Jean Souviens


The Fractured Nation InterviewsJohnny: I must confess that Canada’s refusal to simply recognize Québec as a distinct society, even in theory as you claim, in its constitution is confusing considering that under Canada’s multiculturalism doctrine it recognized the distinctiveness of just about everybody else.

Souviens: [getting agitated] And that’s the other thing.

Johnny: What other thing?

Souviens: The multiculturalism thing. What was up with that? Multiculturalism is not a culture; it is the death of a culture or more precisely the death of a nation, la mort d’une nation. How can you pretend to be a nation if you don’t have a culture that you can claim as your own? This multiculturalism thing was, for Québec, except for a short period right after the conquest, the greatest threat to its survival.

Johnny: Multiculturalism, a threat to Québec’s survival???

Souviens: Ever since France traded Québec for Guadeloupe, Québecquers have been pre-occupied with the preservation of their culture; Québec’s priorities and beliefs had not changed over time but the rest of Canada had. The rest of Canada became the whatyoumacallit: the tolerable, the tolerating, you know a society where everybody but the not tolerant tolerate everything and the tolerant tolerating the not tolerant and the not tolerant not tolerating the tolerant … what do you call it?

Johnny: You mean the tolerant society?

Souviens: Of course, yes, yes that crazy system which most Québecquers believe was an excuse for not believing in anything. Native French Québecquers with our precise Cartesian definition of what it means to be a Québecquer could not identify with the official wishy-washy definition of what it means to be a Canadian.

Johnny: Cartesian definition or not, even in hindsight, multiculturalism as a culture in itself is a bit of a contradiction in terms.

Souviens: Québecquers became even more concerned about their culture as the country became more and more of a country of minorities where Québecquers would be just another minority among minorities.

Our leaders at the time, the saintly Parizeau among them, were concerned about the bad things that come with groups, the things that groups do – group dynamics I think it is called – such as being jealous of what other groups have; imagining that other groups want to steal from them, take their women that sort of thing, and, and … groups like to mark their territories, not like dogs and cats, but by putting up real and not real fences, and, and … groups only like members of their groups and hate members of the other groups for all those reasons I talked about before.

Johnny: Group dynamics can have some unfortunate side effects, group-think and mob-rule to name a couple.

Souviens: This bad side of group thinking, our leaders, including the saintly Parizeau, believed would lead to a new kind of power politics where Québec would be at a distinct, this is, what you English say, not a pun thing, disadvantage. They saw the politics of power of the new Canada as a series of alliances between groups to deny or take away an existing right of another group. Gropings (sic) that they already blamed for denying Québec’s independence and for denying Québec’s distinctiveness within Canada.

Johnny: I assume you meant groupings instead of gropings.

Souviens: What’s the difference?

Johnny: Groping involves some sort of sexual interplay, touching.

Souviens: Yes, there was some of that too.

Johnny: Your colourful analysis of the sinister side of group dynamics makes some sense considering what happened to Canada.

Souviens: And another thing, I think it was the stomach of the English reacting, what I believe you call a reaction of the gut by the English to Québec’s demand for a greater recognition and more power that was the cause of the flood. It was a not conscious response by the rest of Canada. Unable to deal with Québec as an equal it would make the Canada, a country of minorities, so nobody could claim to be special, spécial.

Johnny: I’m sorry, but I find it difficult to agree with you Mr. Souviens, that Canada would cut off its nose just to spite Québec?

Souviens: Explain to me please, how does a country cut off its nose? Where is its nose?

Johnny: It’s just an expression meaning doing something that is obviously against your interest simply to exact a measure of revenge against another.

Souviens: That’s what the English-Canada did alright. That is exactly what they did!

Johnny: Increasing immigration to get back at Québec? I don’t think so. But your novel, some would say slightly paranoid theory would explain why, while the rest of Canada, under multiculturalism encouraged newcomers to keep their culture and their language, Québec did the exact opposite.

Souviens: Yes we did. Speak our language, accept and become part of our culture or get out! What the rest of Canada perceived as intolerance or what you called paranoia, Québecquers understood as the only way to ensure the survival of their language and cultural distinctiveness during the flood. And La Fracture from which Québec emerged intact is proof that we were right.

Johnny: I agree that without an enlighten majority to set the tone, as the English majority did for the longest time, some of the more unpleasant consequences of group dynamics which you mentioned, did come to pass. Perhaps it was inevitable. Perhaps English-Canada did cut its nose, but to what end I’m not sure. I don’t think it was to spite Québecquers?

Souviens: I will grant you that, the English before Diefenbaker were not that bad.