An instant classic, Radio-Canada journalist Normand Lester's new book, Le livre noir du Canada anglais will be studied by generations of apprentice journalists and historians. It's the perfect piece of racist literature, a model on the methodology of inciting hatred.
No wonder Premier Bernard Landry has been praising it as a must-read and Montreal's separatist Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste rushed to award Mr. Lester a prize. According to his script, we are all guilty as English-speaking Canadians. We are "les Anglais," a collective personality that has been hating and oppressing French-speaking Canadians since 1759.
I am guilty of deporting the Acadians. You are guilty of James Wolfe's devastation of New France's farms in 1759 and of General Jeffery Amherst's sending small-pox contaminated blankets to Indians in 1763. We are guilty of Maria Monk (a deranged prostitute born in Quebec City) and her 1836 best-selling scurrilous fabrication of sexual scandals between priests and nuns in Montreal's convents.
"It's not a new phenomenon," Mr. Lester reveals. "These calumnies reinforced the natural prejudices that Anglo-Saxons have long cultivated against French and Catholics. The case of Maria Monk is exemplary." He calls her book a "masterpiece of English-Canadian literature."
It was we, under the guise of General John Colborne, who put down fiercely the 1837-38 Rebellion and eclipsed the Quebec bourgeoisie, so promoting the priests, according to Mr. Lester's interpretation of history. "The 'priest-ridden province' is one more gift that we owe to les Anglais."
When the Anglais of Montreal burned down the legislature, furious at the bill to compensate the victims of the Rebellion, they -- we -- revealed the eternal two faces of English Quebec.
"Les Anglais of Montreal are great democrats: They have an unshakeable attachment to democratic institutions, as long as they are under their control and protect their interests. That is why, obeying a logic which they have adhered to unfailingly throughout their history, in the evening of April 25, 1849, they set fire to the Parliament building of United Canada."
Then, as now, Montreal's The Gazette was incendiary. "Like all the racist anglophone rags of yesterday and today, The Gazette hymns the old song that the French Canadians are 'deaf and blind to their true interests.' Ah! If they would only follow the orders of the minority of racist swindlers and profiteers who control business, they would be so much better off!"
And, oh, yes, we abolished French schools in Manitoba, Ontario and elsewhere. We hanged Louis Riel. "Le Canada anglais tolerates only one single attitude from French Quebec: a total and unconditional surrender. It was true in 1885, it is still true today."
So goes the lesson. A "half-century of infamy" followed Confederation. Its nadir was the conscription crisis of 1917 and the riot in Quebec City in 1918 "when Anglais soldiers, summoned on purpose from Toronto to Quebec, opened fire on a crowd of anti-conscription demonstrators, killing four. Ah! British liberties are worth fighting for."
During the conflicts over Confederation, Mr. Lester notes, "The malevolence of the English Canadians for the Québécois was pathological."
Pathological? This tract begins by claiming that murderous anti-Quebec sentiments are festering across Canada. "Le Canada anglais is once again at war against Quebec. Since the referendum, it dreams of a new battle of the Plains of Abraham, it dreams of settling Quebec's hash once and for all." Throughout the 303 pages of the book, extreme words, extreme sentiments are attributed to les Anglais, to le Canada anglais, to les anglophones and les Anglo-Saxons.
To Mr. Lester, these are all descendants of the British conquerors. The recurrent vocabulary consists of terms like racist, contempt, verbal violence, anti-Québécois fever, Nazi, defaming Quebec, arrogance, enemy, genocide, war criminals, humiliate, vindictive, profiteers and traffickers, exploiters, rabble -- a whole arsenal of explosive and heinous attributes to characterize the majority of Canadians.
And what about prominent French-speaking federalists? Mr. Lester holds them in contempt.
"In every period of our history, Canadian politicians and their French-speaking collaborators, from Wilfrid Laurier to Trudeau to Stéphane Dion, have repeated ad nauseam how grateful we should be to the Anglais" for the gift of democracy.
Mr. Lester will have none of it. "London, Ottawa and les Anglais never did us any favours, no matter what you hear from the appointed mouthpieces of the federal government."
Mr. Lester has become a cause célèbre and a martyr in Quebec because he was suspended by his superiors. His book, obsessively hateful, is selling like Maria Monk's pornography. But it is also dishonest and incompetent, as I shall show in another column.