Canada is a country in which the terms of Quebec secession were set broadly by a court, and accepted without rancour. It’s a country in which a separatist party, existing at the federal level, managed to serve as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. In such a peaceable country, Tuesday night’s act of apparent terror – claiming to be done in the name of anglophones – can accomplish none of its purposes except to kill the innocent.
It does not spread fear. It does not drive a wedge between peoples. It does not alter a government’s course. It does not terrify. It manages only to make its perpetrator appear pathetic in his delusions.
Denis Blanchette, a lighting technician in his forties, is dead. His three-year-old daughter is without a father. Another man, David Courrage, is injured. Those are the only results that matter from the violence at Pauline Marois’s victory party.
It is a slur against anglophones to suggest that the violence was done on their behalf, or that others would resort to similar methods. “The anglos are waking up, the anglos are waking up,” the alleged shooter said in French, on camera, after the attack. Then, in English, “It’s payback time.” The anglos participate in the political process and in civic society. They’ve voted in referendums and elections. They voted with their feet in 1976. The same is true of anglophones outside of Quebec: They appreciate Quebec’s aspirations to maintain culture and language. They don’t want Quebec to separate, but they don’t want the army to be called out, either. And so it goes, too, for Quebec’s francophone sovereigntists: they have turned away from the use of violence for the past 40 years. They work from within mainstream Canadian institutions, peaceably.
“The threads of a thousand acts of accommodation are the fabric of a nation,” constitutional scholar John D. Whyte once said, and those threads are woven so tightly throughout Canada, thankfully, that they will not come so easily undone.
Whether or not the election-night violence turns out to fit the definition in the federal Anti-Terrorism Act – of an act committed “for a political, religious or ideological purpose,” to intimidate the public or pressure government to change course – it was an attack on the Canadian belief in the primacy of discussion and debate, and an innocent family paid a terrible price for it.