Counter ‘revolution’ brewing in Quebec

English-speaking Canada was given further evidence last week that an extraordinary change is taking place in Quebec.  A whole generation of young people seems to be discovering the “Quiet Revolution,” conducted in the late 20th century by their elders, was in fact a fraud.

Its pretended aim was to preserve the language and culture of Quebec against the assimilating influence of the Anglo-American colossus that threatens it. What it was actually doing was instituting a secular socialist culture that had far more in common with, say, Sweden than anything in the history of Quebec, and would have been utterly abhorrent to the real Quebecois who founded and developed French Canada.

What would those strictly Catholic mothers and fathers of families with 12 or more children think if they could see their descendants wallowing in the highest abortion, divorce, single-parent and “shack-up” rate in the whole country?  Making it worse, this has been done under the guise of preserving French Canada’s cultural past. 

In any event, the reality of this staggering hypocrisy is apparently dawning on the generation that is inheriting the sociological shambles their parents have left to them.  The latest disclosure came when Radio Canada announced the “Felix” awards, the Quebec equivalent of the Juno Awards.  A folk-song group calling itself “Mes Aieux” (My Ancestors) had produced what was voted the most popular song in Quebec. It’s called Degenerations, which means “degeneration,” an apt description of what has been happening in that province.

The words of the song leave no doubt about its message.  They recall and extol the old Quebecois, who courageously broke the land and founded French Canada. The song likewise deplores their descendants who gave it all away and became bureaucrats. Where your great, great grandmother had 14 children, says the song, “your mom didn’t want any, you were an accident.” Much of it chronicles the woes of women who have abortions. 

The song has been a frequent topic on open-line shows. But it’s only the latest clue to this social change. There has been much other evidence of it. The current Taylor-Bouchard commission, for instance, which is investigating how Quebec should accommodate religious minorities, has seen a procession of witnesses, many of them young people, bewail the passing of Catholic Quebec. 

Others view the commission’s hearings differently.  “The hearings have been a train wreck,” snorts McGill political scientist Jacob T. Levy. “They’ve provided a juicy opportunity for the most bigoted elements in Quebec society to get a live televised audience for their views.” 

The latest government decision to teach “all religions” rather than just the Christian one, in the Quebec schools has set off an unexpected protest from Quebec parents.  Most notable of all, a major theme of the rising political party, Action Democratique du Quebec, has been the need for the province to connect to its true past. It portrays the province as flailing about, uncertain of what it is doing or why. It is a party of 20- and 30-year-olds, led by Mario Dumont who was born in 1970, when the old Quebec was well on the way to near oblivion. In the March provincial election the ADQ’s standing rose from four seats to 40 in the Quebec assembly.

The Globe and Mail reports with undisguised relief that so far, the new trend has not evidenced any notable return of youth to the Catholic Church.  Dumont “never lived through the church repression, reactionary politics and cultural isolation” of the 1940s and ‘50s, says a Globe opinion piece. “Many, mostly younger, Quebecers, those who never felt the church’s claws, don’t carry the same baggage.”

For whatever it’s worth, I do remember those “dark years,” as the now aging Quiet Revolutionaries call them.  I worked on the Ottawa Journal across the river from Hull Quebec in 1947 and ‘48.  We had a half-dozen French reporters, and I came to know numerous other French Canadians. Nearly all were church-goers, but I can’t remember any as particularly repressed by “the church’s claw.”  They seemed an unusually happy people, had great parties, worked hard and loved singing. They may have been “culturally isolated,” but didn’t give a damn.

This joy, of course, scarcely describes the dreary moral wasteland of modern urban Quebec, something its rising generation has plainly observed.

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