Is Canada racist? No. Is there racism in Canada? Yes.

The announcements of the concern about racism the other day in Winnipeg came as no surprise. That part of this country has been trying to stuff the racism genie back in the bottle since the confluence of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers was the site of an early trading post. Give the city the credit it deserves though, the racism is now exposed and the city has a chance to work on the problems. It is just too bad that Montreal does not do the same. It continues as the most racist city in Canada.

And we are not talking of mistreatment of Canada’s aboriginal and Métis people in Montreal. We are talking the insidious distrust of anyone who is not racially or tribally pure laine. While there is sometimes a misunderstanding of cultural sensitivities between the anglo and francophone populations in Quebec, there is no excuse for the continued demand for an intolerant ‘Charter of Values’ as promoted by the Parti Québécois during the last provincial election.

But when the ruling Liberals under Philippe Couilliard also promise a version of the values charter, you are right to question the motives. Is this pandering to that insipient intolerance? Quebec politicians of all stripes seem to feed off a culture of intolerance. It goes back to the battle on the Plains of Abraham. It was supported by the clerics of the Catholic Church in Lower Canada. And then, as the church lost its influence, politicians found it useful. It took the Supreme Court of Canada two decades to finally squash Premier Maurice Duplessis’s infamous Padlock Law but even then the jurists failed to address anything more than the fact the province did not have jurisdiction to pass the law.

Both Thomas Mulcair of the New Democrats and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are sensitive to the issue. Scratch hard enough with either and you see the defensiveness they hold for Quebec. They are Quebeckers first and federal politicians second. Mulcair stabilizes his Quebec sensitivity with his French passport. The younger Trudeau balances with his maternal ties in British Columbia.

There are obviously few Quebecers who want to link the pure laine or de souche (hard liner) attitudes in Quebec to an inferiority complex. That would be like a feather pillow with little resistance and less impression. The problems are the politicians who will skate with it because of its potential for them to gain ground for their own ambitions. Everyone saw in the introduction of Pierre-Karl Péladeau to separatist politics last year that it was a horse he wanted to ride. While Péladeau won his rural seat in the National Assembly last year, his naϊveté helped pull down his separatist party.

Any Canadian from other parts of Canada who has travelled in Quebec and knows its people will tell you that Quebecers can play in the first line of any team they choose. There is no rational for any values charter that does not recognize that diversity of Quebec is its strength. The diversity of Canada is something in which we all take pride.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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