This article is a translation of a French article written by our Quebecois comrades in La Riposte socialiste. In English Canada our task is to expose Anglo-chauvinism and the reactionary policies of the federal capitalist state. In Quebec it is the task of our Francophone comrades to expose the reactionary policies of the bourgeois-nationalist leadership. United we struggle for class unity against all oppression in order to overthrow capitalism in Quebec and Canada.
On June 17, Alain Therrien, House Leader of the Bloc Québécois, blocked the unanimous adoption of a motion introduced by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to recognize systemic racism within the RCMP.
So the Bloc, this great defender of Quebec in Ottawa, is going so far as to defend the RCMP, the armed wing of the Canadian federal state. And this is at a time when even the RCMP commissioner has admitted the existence of systemic racism within the RCMP. You cannot make this up.
Therrien then allegedly made a dismissive gesture towards Singh. An angered Singh responded by calling Therrien a racist.
But now the Quebec nationalists are also angered. Bloc leader, Yves-François Blanchet went so far as to say he wants to avoid “a lynching”. “Quebec society thus finds itself in the racist camp,” says the irreplaceable Denise Bombardier in the Journal de Montréal. “An attack on all of Quebec,” says Frédéric Bastien, Parti Québécois leadership candidate, who has also tried to start a solidarity movement “Je suis Alain Therrien”. He equated being called a racist with terrorism.
There you have it! The victim is Therrien. And so is all of Quebec, on top of it.
For weeks now, hard-line nationalists have been struggling. The incredible uprising against racism in the US has spread to Quebec and these people see this as an attack. For years they’ve been saying that it is anti-racism that is racist. And how could Quebecois people, victims of Anglo-Chauvinist oppression for centuries, be racist?
Journal de Montréal columnists are leading the counter attack: We must “stand up to those who spit on Quebec,” according to Mathieu Bock-Côté. Premier François Legault tells us that there is no systemic racism in Quebec.
Nevermind the fact that Blacks earn 30% less than the rest of the population in Montreal. Nevermind that the unemployment rate for Indigenous and Blacks is nearly double the rest of the population. Nevermind the constant racial profiling by the SPVM. Let’s not put the Quebecois on trial!
Nationalism is thus brought to its logical conclusion: by taking a stand for one nation, you inevitably end up seeing everything as an attack on “your” nation, oppressing other groups and going to ridiculous lengths to justify this. The Bloc’s actions only push this logic to the point of absurdity.
The Bloc’s argument for blocking the motion is that we need a federal committee to look into the issue of racism in the RCMP and that we should not anticipate the results. All of a sudden the Bloc becomes the fervent defender of proper parliamentary procedure at the federal level! But this hypocritical lawyerly answer fell flat when Blanchet refused to answer a very simple question from a journalist who asked him if he would accept the committee’s conclusions if it found systemic racism within the RCMP!
Why are the Bloc and right-wing nationalists so uncomfortable with the concept of systemic racism?
Because they are forced to look at themselves in the mirror.
The Bloc itself has been promoting racism for political purposes for many years, as evidenced by their publicity below. What other word but “racist” could be used to describe this image? “Xenophobic” does the trick, too.
Alain Therrien himself refused to acknowledge the existence of Islamophobia after the Quebec City mosque massacre in 2017, when he was a PQ MNA.
Of course, racism is not unique to the Bloc. The Harper Conservatives also led a crusade against the niqab in 2015, and “blackface” Trudeau’s Liberals have no hesitation in sending the RCMP after Indigenous peoples. Anyone who suggests that Quebecers or Francophones in particular are more racist than others is just demonstrating their Anglo-chauvinism.
But we must denounce without hesitation those nationalists who dare to use the historical oppression of Quebecers to justify attacking minorities and denying systemic racism against them. When Francophone workers in Montreal in the 1960s earned 50% of the wages of Anglophone workers it was systemic racism. When Black workers earn 70% of the average Montreal worker today it is also systemic racism.
How to fight racism
How do we counter this poison? Marxists take a negative position on the national question. We are against national oppression (and oppression in general), but we are not for one nation or another. It is with this approach that we can unite workers of all backgrounds in a common struggle against all forms of oppression.
Nationalism, on the other hand, is very often a slippery slope leading to taking reactionary positions against other nationalities or minorities. That is what we see in Quebec.
For years, the PQ and the CAQ have been trying to make religious signs a “problem” to be solved, waving the scarecrow of the niqab, talking about reducing immigration. Even the Quebec Liberals have played this game. They put forward Bill 62 in the fall of 2017, which banned face coverings, while simultaneously refusing to admit systemic racism. The CAQ crowned it all off with Bill 21. Each time, Muslims in particular, suffer through insults and harassment.
Malcolm X said: “Racism is profitable. If it was not profitable, it would not exist.” Racist attacks have been a prime diversion for capitalist parties to distract workers’ attention from austerity and to set one part of the working class against another. The bosses’ parties need these divisions to rule. The capitalist system relies on division to weaken the resistance of the working class.
The Quebec working class has no interest in denying systemic racism. It has every interest in committing itself to fighting against racism in all its forms. No worker benefits from discriminatory laws such as Bill 21. No worker benefits from lower pay for Blacks or Indigenous people – this only puts downward pressure on everyone’s wages.
And no, we don’t want to “put Quebecers on trial”. Rather, it’s time to put capitalism, and those who defend it, on trial.