Quebec’s new Parti Québécois minority government is doing its best to continue the party’s tradition, for lack of a better word, of removing the Canadian flag from the National Assembly in Quebec City. Now a new poll shows that two-thirds of Quebeckers see the Canadian flag as a source of personal or collective pride, and a motion to remove the flag appeared to be headed toward defeat Wednesday, thanks to opposition parties who say they will vote against it. But can even this put an end to the silliness?
Originally a petty gesture by Premier René Lévesque when the PQ was first elected in 1976, at least then it had the benefit of good timing: It scared the pants off of the rest of the country. Since then, though – through two defeated referenda, the adoption of the Clarity Act, Ottawa’s recognition of Quebec as a nation, and many more concrete demonstrations of the province’s place in Canada – this little tiny act of political theatre has descended into self-righteous mimicry. No sensible Canadian feels particularly threatened by the flag’s removal any more; in fact, most probably feel a slight offence at the suggestion that they would be put out by so obvious an attempt to wound.
As the Leger Marketing poll of 2,207 respondents found, the vast majority of Quebeckers see the Canadian flag as a source of pride. Their attachment to Canada is as real as their attachment to Quebec. The Canadian flag is not a symbol of oppression to them, nor that of an enemy. It’s the flag of their country, and it should have a place in the National Assembly.
But as sure a spring follows winter, each new PQ government unfailingly announces its lurid intention to remove the Maple Leaf from the committee room of the National Assembly, the only place it can be seen inside the building. And so it is with the minority government of Pauline Marois. At a time when support for Quebec independence is at a new low, the PQ, devoid of other options to promote something no one wants, trots out this tired relic of a gesture in an effort to buck up its diehard separatist supporters. One can almost (but not quite) sympathize with them; after all, each time they remove the Canadian flag, it keeps coming back.