H-France List Archives

  • Message-Id: <199604041002.LAA04320@listserv.rl.ac.uk>
  • Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 13:37:49 -0800
  • From: "Bertram M. Gordon" <bmgordon@mills.edu>
  • Subject: Re: Vichy and Quebec (Groulx versus Deslisle) (fwd)

Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 13:31:58 -0500 (EST)
From: michael sibalis F <msibalis@mach1.wlu.ca>

Patrice Groulx's remarks about Esther Delisle's book is a reminder of how
difficult any objective discussion of Quebec's history has become in
Canada today.  At a time when Quebec nationalists and Canadian federalists
are in conflict and as Quebec drifts toward independence -- almost
inevitable, I think -- any historical debate has clear contemporary
political overtones.  I think that M. Groulx owes it to others on the list
to provide a more comprehensive critique of Delisle's alleged errors.
His message amounts to little more than accusations that Delisle's
federalist politics have led her to misrepresent and slander Quebec
nationalism.  This is a gross oversimplification of the issue.

There may be problems with Delisle's book in terms of its narrow focus,
but the fact is that she has challenged certain Quebecois orthodoxies and
she has paid the price: she has been subjected to savage attacks and
professional black-balling by other Quebec intellectuals (Patrice Groulx's
comments are quite mild in comparison) for daring to suggest that leading
Quebec intellectuals in the 1930s were in fact anti-semitic.  In
particular, she has shown that the Abbe Groulx, a nationalist icon in
Quebec, was a nasty xenophobe and anti-semite, which is hardly anything
new to those who have bothered to read him (I discovered it on my own
thirty years ago when I was an undergraduate), but which seems to be a
revelation to Quebec nationalists today.

The mistake would be to assume that because the roots of Quebec
nationalism are to some extent tainted -- isn't all Western European
nationalism somewhat xenophobic in its origins? -- Quebec nationalism
today is dangerous.  That is the problem with Mordecai Richler's book,
which Dr. Wall has suggested reading.  Richler is right on many details,
but he grossly exaggerates the overall position of nationalists in
general.  Quebec nationalists are not fascists.  Certainly some
nationalists have made statements that are worrisome -- they see a "true
Quebec" (though they don't use the phrase) in the same way that Le Pen and
others see "a true France" and it is quite clear that it does not include
other races and cultures -- but these extremists are generally in the
minority.  Nevertheless, one must always be aware that post-referendum
remarks by Jacques Parizeau (the prime minister of Quebec) did elicit
cheers.  He complained that the referendum had been lost because of "the
ethnic vote and money," which is actually true and far less disturbing
than his additional remark that "two-thirds of who we are" had voted yes.
This made it crystal clear: pure-bred francophones were "who we are" and
everyone else was not part of "us".  However, Parizeau was almost
immediately forced out of office by his own party.

Quebec nationalists like Patrice Groulx would do better to admit that
Delisle is essentially correct: one part (and I do emphasize "part") of
the past of Quebec nationalism is indeed shameful (something nationalists
generally persist in denying), and get on with the job of constructing an
inclusive and liberal nationalism.

Even as a Jew and a third-generation Quebecker (and a staunch Canadian
federalist), I would have no fears of living in an independent Quebec ...
should the day come.

Michael D. Sibalis
Associate Professor
Department of History
Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, Ontario

(519)-884-0710 ext. 3141

On Sat, 1 Mar 1997, Bertram M. Gordon wrote:

> Date: Sat, 1 Mar 1997 12:18:54 -0500 (EST)
> From: PATRICE GROULX <aaa712@agora.ulaval.ca>
> On Thu, 27 Feb 1997, Bertram M. Gordon wrote:
> > Date: Thu, 27 Feb 1997 18:06:32 -0500
> > From: pnotley2@pop3.utoledo.edu
> >
> > Are there any books or articles which discuss how Vichy thought about
> > politics or culture or anything about Quebec?  Or Vice-versa?  I would be
> > particularly interested in the reactions of French -Canadian soldiers as
> > they entered France (to the extent that they did, there being fewer
> > Quebecois in what was a predominantly anglophone institution.)
> >
> > Paul Notley
> >
> >
> > Note from Co-Editor: You might consult Esther Delisle, _The Traitor and
> > the Jew, Anti-Semitism and the Delirium of Extremist Right-Wing
> > Nationalism in French Canada from 1929 to 1939_ and Yves Lavertu, _The
> > Bernonville Affair: A French War Criminal in Quebec after World War II_.
> > --B. Gordon
> >
> Je suggere a M. Notley de consulter le CD-Rom "HISCABEC, bibliographie
> de l'histoire du Quebec et du Canada" de l'Institut
> d'Histoire de l'Amerique francaise. Voici l'adresse de l'Institut: 261,
> av. Bloomfield, Outremont, Quebec, H2V 3R6. Telephone: (514) 278-2232;
> fax: 271-6369.
> En ce qui concerne la these de Mme Delisle, il faut la prendre avec un
> grain de sel. Delisle conforte un bon nombre d'idees recues sur
> l'antisemitisme et le fascisme qui seraient la marque de tout ce qui a
> pense et ecrit au Quebec depuis toujours. Elle a construit son
> pamphlet sur des apriori antinationalistes, a l'aide d'un bricolage assez
> grossier de citations, de sous-entendus improuvables et d'une
> bibliographie dont elle n'a manifestement pas lu tous les elements. Cela
> fait evidemment les delices de tous ceux qui veulent noircir le mouvement
> national actuel au Quebec, mais n'est guere serieux. A
> l'occasion
> des celebrations de la fin de la Deuxieme Guerre mondiale, il est sorti
> recemment au
> Quebec plusieurs theses, ouvrages et memoires beaucoup plus nuances sur la
> participation du Canada francais au conflit et les rapports avec
> l'idiologie de Vichy. Il est
> evidemment difficile, dans un contexte politique extremement tendu comme
> celui qui prevaut actuellement au Canada, d'echapper aux contentieux
> ideologiques. La traduction en anglais
> de certains ouvrages, meme faibles, plutot que d'autres n'est pas etrangere
> a cette situation: la chasse aux separatistes est devenu un veritable
> sport, et toutes les munitions sont bonnes.

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