Some years ago those in the Province of Quebec, wanting to in part allay the fears that many in Quebec (and not only members of the Parti QuÃ©becois) had about the survival of French in an Anglophone sea, and wanting to ensure more immigrants who spoke French and would continue to speak it, decided to favor French-speakers in its immigration policy. It had been noticed, for example, that immigrants from Greece and Italy tended to want to have their children enrolled in English-language schools. They showed a dangerous preference for choosing English-language schools for their children, possibly for economic reasons (English as the “international language of business” etc.), and therefore they were deemed dangerous to French Canadians, to the Parti QuÃ©becois, and to all those who, understandably, wished to preserve French in the only Canadian province where it still prevailed.
The policy adopted was to favor those from “Francophone” countries. The definition of Francophone countries obviously gave pride of place to France, but also included all those places that had once been French colonies. In the Western hemisphere that meant the Antilles (Guadeloupe, Martinique), French Guiana, and Haiti. In Africa it meant Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and many countries in sub-Saharan Africa – Gabon, Togo, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (or is it the People’s Republic of Congo? I forget which) — in short, all of the states hacked out of what was formerly French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa.
Language trumped all other considerations. But in the end, what happened is not that Montreal was flooded with French people who had decided to seek their fortune in the New World, but by French people who were unhappy with France. And the main reason French people right now are unhappy with France is the Muslim population, and how it has changed French well-being, French schools and the elaborate system of preparations and competitions needed to get into them at all levels, French employment practices, French everything.
And not too many people had the money, even, to show up from far-away Gabon or the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Chad.
So who did show up? It was maghrÃ©bins, in the main, from Morocco, from Tunisia, from Algeria, but also people from Lebanon and Syria. Now those from Lebanon, which had once been part of a French mandate, consisted of both Muslims and non-Muslims, chiefly Maronites. The Maronites leave Lebanon for North America for the same reason that some – not many as yet, but some – French leave France: they leave because of what resurgent Islam, and the burgeoning Muslim presence, has done to Lebanon. It is hard to believe that just a half-century ago, Charles Malik was Lebanon’s most eminent representative, and that he could wish assurance walk the corridors of power in Beirut as he did those of the U.N. in New York, where he was one of the careful formulators of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Muslims find so objectionable. The Maronites and other Christians have seen a steady decline in their power, and the Maronites – speaking the best French of any Lebanese, for the Muslims tend not to study or care about it in the same way – have arrived in French-speaking Quebec only to be horrified by the influx of Muslims, the very people they were fleeing. They left Lebanon just as other Maronites, late in the 19th and early in the 20th centuries, left it because of the Muslim threat, the harbinger of which was the pogrom by Muslims against Maronites in Damascus in 1860.
They, who sent their children to French-language schools, who kept French alive in the Middle East (the ancien rÃ©gime of the Shah also looked to France, and there were lycÃ©es in Teheran under the Shah, who had gone to school at Le Rosey in Switzerland and, like his Shahbanou, knew French extremely well), were chagrined to discover along St. Catherine Street the very Muslims whose mental makeup they understood as the locals did not, or did not yet.
There have been terrorist cells already connected to Montreal. The Arab who tried some years ago to enter the United States through Washington State, but was stopped by a female guard who became suspicious, the one who had been planning a terrorist attack, originated in Montreal. The Arab Muslim who killed nearly a dozen girls – he went by the adopted name of Lepine – because they behaved not as women should behave, in his Muslim view, was a resident of Montreal. And there are other Montreal connections to atrocities planned for North America, and with connections to well-known Arab and Muslim terrorist groups aside from Al Qaeda too.
Now what has happened in Quebec with the new Muslim presence? Have the fears of those who had most reason to know what this Muslim presence would sooner or later mean for their own well-being been proven right, or have they been shown up? You have heard of the attempted machete attack on two students, for their pro-Israel stand, at Carleton University (see here). You know about the successful barring, by maddened Muslims and their useful local idiots, of Israeli and pro-Israel speakers, as happened to Prime Minister Netanyahu at Concordia University. You know about the many aggressive demands of individual Muslims, such as the women who have insisted on wearing the burqa, or turning their backs when reciting so that male students in the class cannot see them, and then been enraged when they were expelled from the class unless they were willing to end their practice.
But you also know of how forthright and firm French Canadians have been. You have read, for example, at this site, about Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who unapologetically banned the niqab.
You can find many stories about Muslims in Canada, in Quebec and outside Quebec, who have run afoul of the laws on terrorism. Here’s one.
The main point is that the French speakers of Quebec, out of a desire to shore up the position of French and French speakers in that province, chose to adopt an immigration policy that would make mere knowledge – or in too many cases not even knowledge of, but an imperfect acquaintance with – of French their main criterion. They did not, several decades ago, realize what they were doing, what madness it was to think that Moroccans would fit in better than, say, immigrants from the Abruzzo. They have learned, to their great and permanent sorrow, otherwise.
But now they are showing, these same French-speaking Canadians in the Province of Quebec, that they are not willing to bend to Muslim demands and, indeed, are going to aggressively uphold their own ways, their own social arrangements and understandings. And to judge by the various news stories, they may be better prepared mentally to do so than are the Canadians who live outside of Quebec, and who may not have a keen sense of a particular culture to protect. This is a pity. It is a pity that English Canada should not consist of people who have a deep interest in and desire to assure the cultural continuity of their own, large share of Canada, who have accepted, and even elevated to the status of a state religion, such notions as “Diversity” and “Tolerance,” that “diversity” being the predictable kind of one-of-each “diversity” that we see nowadays on the covers of private school and college catalogues – those photographs of smiling yet sober students, or on Benetton ads, where the “diversity” itself is what is being celebrated, though for no particular or articulated reason. And when the spoilsports such as Robert Putnam at Harvard come along and show just what damage to social cohesion is done by “too much diversity,” such people are simply ignored, and instead we get assertions of the “everybody knows” variety: Everybody Knows That Diversity Is A Good Thing. Oh no we don’t. And we especially don’t know, and have no reason to know, judging by the evidence presented all over Western Europe today, that Muslim immigrants integrate in the same way as non-Muslim immigrants. They have quite a different conception of loyalty. Theirs is to the Umma and to Islam. Why should we not simply recognize that, instead of pretending otherwise? And once we have recognized it, we can then discuss and even argue over the likely consequences, and over what we should do once we have sensibly recognized, rather than avoided, reality.
And the observable problem with one particular group of immigrants – Muslims – is not limited to this or that country, but exists everywhere, and perhaps most painfully so in the very countries that are most akin to Canada in their elevation of that Diversity, of that Tolerance, to the status – just like Canada – of state religions. These two countries are Denmark and the Netherlands, and in both the number of people who have become aware of their own imperilment because of the large-scale Muslim presence steadily grows.
Canada has a problem that sometimes gets in the way of Canadians. The problem is that felt need to distinguish themselves from citizens of that Colossus of the South, the United States. In Canadian eyes, if those eyes are those of the Canadian herd (and every country has its local herd), the U.S. is vulgar, it is a rich, stupid, politically troglodytic country. “We Are Not Americans” can sometimes, as a motto, if taken too seriously, lead to all kinds of bad things. And among those bad things is the notion that if Americans are worried about Muslims, all the more reason for us, the reasonable Canadians, not to be upset, not to worry, and to behave as Defenders of the Faith, that faith being Islam. For we must show that we are not at all like those Americans. The same problem can be observed in Oceania, where people in New Zealand like to make clear that “We Are Not Australians” (like Americans with Canadians, seen as “vulgar, rich, stupid, politically troglodytic” etc.).
But Canadians of French descent do not have that problem. They see quite clearly that they are easily distinguishable – linguistically – from the Americans. It is English Canada that worries them, not English-speaking America, which consists only of dollar-bearing tourists and trading partners. A major source of what causes some Canadians to overlook or underestimate the danger from Islam, from those who take Islam seriously, is not present in French Canada. No need to ostentatiously demonstrate how unlike Americans they are; no need to be deliberately skeptical about claims that Islam poses a threat. The French in French Canada know that.
And one of the ways they know it is because they have Maronites and Sephardic Jews, who endured life in Muslim-ruled lands, and lived to tell about it. And recently those Maronites and Sephardic Jews have been joined by some outspoken refugees from France, such as the writer Maurice Dantec. Speaking not only perfect French, but French with the greatly-admired, highly-desired metropolitan accent, the true, le vrai, Dantec – and others who have been arriving from France, some as tourists (who share their observations on Islam in France with the French Canadians they meet), some as immigrants — may help the learning curve turn upward faster.
The keen self-consciousness about identity that caused French Canadians, for cultural and political reasons, to favor francophone immigrants without carefully distinguishing between those who are Muslim from those who are non-Muslim, is what now may, and very likely will, save them. For they are now not afraid to protect themselves from a threat posed by those who take Islam to heart, that is a hundred or a thousand times greater than any threat once perceived as coming from o’erweening English-speaking Canadians.
The one worry is a recent bill, one that sounds innocent, by which French-speaking immigrants will be encouraged to spread out, to go outside Quebec, to other provinces, to towns where there is an existing community of French-speakers, but where their numbers need to be bolstered if they are not ultimately to be swamped by English. Where might these towns be? Not in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia. They are surely towns in the nearby provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Thus I call this policy, with deliberate mischievously misleading mumpsimus, the policy of “Et In Acadia Ego.” But what, in practice, would this settlement policy do? Would not this be to encourage, as government policy, the settlement of Muslim “French-speaking” immigrants in communities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia heretofore innocent of Muslims, and without the immune system that, thanks in part to others – Maronites, Copts, Sephardic Jews, Hindus, French from France – at least is starting to work in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa. But that is a new policy, and I’m not sure how it is to be implemented, or with what vigilance it will be monitored. Nor do I know what changes in the favoring-francophone immigration policy are contemplated to accord with what is understood now in Quebec, but was not understood twenty or thirty years ago.
There is a line from the Russian playwright Griboyedov’s “Gore ot uma,” or “Woe From Wit.” In English, it goes roughly like this: “He fell down badly, got up well.”
With its immigration policy that inadvertently favored Muslim MaghrÃ©bins over immigrants from Italy, Greece, Spain, Latin America, Eastern Europe, French Canada made a colossal error. But now it is recovering. The willingness to ban the niqab or even the hijab, and to do so firmly, without any toleration of nonsense, is a good sign.
Quebec fell down badly, is getting up well.