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Victory for Reactionary Xenophobia: Quebec Election

posted by dru Geography: Quebec Topics: elections

March 28, 2007

Victory for Reactionary Xenophobia: Quebec Election

The Quebec election was characterized by a great deal of discontent with the traditional establishment parties, the PQ and the Liberals. The remarkable thing about this election was that this discontent was successfully shifted from the policies that ostensibly pissed people off in the first place, onto to Muslims living in Quebec. Turning anger at unrelated issues into anger at immigrants is hardly a new political technique, but watching it happen here in Montreal is pretty astounding.

It sounds far-fetched to me, too, but the media, led by Quebecor's Journal de Montreal was able to stir up a lot of discontent about basically nothing (even the Gazette didn't buy it). The ADQ's Mario Dumont had been pushing this for months, hoping to get a bump in the polls from latent racist discontent. The PQ's André Boisclair got in on it, late in the campaign (see below). With the media's help, a few isolated incidents (a kid wearing a dull ceremonial dagger to school, a girl playing soccer in a headscarf) were turned into a debate about what "accomodations" are reasonable for Quebeckers to extend to immigrants. (One assumes the Mohawk and Algonquin nations ask themselves the same question, with a bit more substance.)

I just wrote a long post about this, but deleted it by accident, so I'll let the World Socialist Web Site's analysis (they have their biases, but they're transparent about it) take it from here (1, 2, 3):

Confronted, on the eve of the March 26 Quebec election, by a new eruption of xenophobia whipped up by the media and the major political parties, Quebec’s Director General of Elections (DGE) yielded Friday to the chauvinist demand that Muslim women be prevented from voting if they come to the polls wearing a niqab (face veil).

This decision represents at once a reflection and the culminating point of an election campaign dominated by a turn toward outright social reaction on the part of Quebec’s ruling elite. It is also a warning that the next Quebec government, whatever party or combination of parties holds office, will greatly intensify the assault on the social conditions and democratic rights of working people.

On March 23 the Journal de Montréal, a subsidiary of Canadian publishing and cable giant Quebecor, published a provocative article under the title “Voting in disguise, it’s legal.”

The Journal’s editors’ hopes that their anti-Islamic diatribe would cause a sensation were quickly realized. The leaders of Quebec’s major parties rushed to criticize the DGE’s legally flawless ruling that women wearing the veil ought to be permitted to vote since the election law—one of whose stated purposes is to encourage voter participation—provides for several means other than photo identification to ensure that individuals who fill out a ballot on election day are legal voters.

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