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I mean they basically agree on everything anyway, so what's the point?

Seriously, I was recommended a live cast of the English-language federal leaders' debate the other day...

...and what stuck out to me the most was the uniformity of opinion among them. With the sole exception of the Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, all the other candidates are essentially running on variations of the governing Liberal Party's program: scaled-up versions were offered by Jagmeet Singh of the New Democrats and Annamie Paul of the Greens while a scaled-down version was offered by Conservative leader Erin O'Toole. The baseline program on offer though seems to be the same across the board for all Canadian parties. Nobody's atually offering a different program. Except Blanchet on behalf of the Bloc. But that's because he represents Quebec, which, as of June 16th, is now officially recognized as a separate nation, no longer considered simply a province of Canada. He's not even seeking to be the Prime Minister of Canada like the rest of them; he's there simply to advocate for Quebec's national interests within the federal framework.

As I watched this debate, Blanchet quickly emerged as my favorite of the leaders precisely because he was the one who dared to be different. Since English isn't first language, he sometimes struggled to translate his thoughts and accordingly had a very plain manner of speaking that was actually usually much easier to follow than how the other leaders (especially the polished bureaucrats of the bigger parties) communicated, IMO. I liked his simple, straightforward presentation of what struck me as a moderate, common sense kind of worldview within the framework of his distinctive goals. I didn't agree with his stance on just everything, but he came off to me as a human being, not a robotic ideologue.

Because the Bloc's program stands out for not being socially liberal across the board, Blanchet, and frankly Quebec as a whole by proxy, faced breathtakingly blatant political discrimination and marginalization from multiple presenters (which he called out) on a level that honestly shocked me. Right off the bat, the very first question directed at Blanchet was...

"Mr. Blanchet, to you: You deny that Quebec has problems with racism, yet you defend legislation such as Bills 96 and 21 which marginalize religious minorities, Anglophones and Allophones. Quebec is recognized as a distinct society, but for those outside the province, please help them understand why your party also supports these discriminatory laws?"

For perspective, Bill 96 is a local proposition applicable only to Quebec that seeks to equalize the treatment of the French language, which prevails in Quebec, therein by banning most large and medium-sized businesses in Quebec from offering services exclusively in other languages (such as English, for example; the prevailing language in Canada). Bill 21 is a local Quebec bill that prohibits government employees from wearing ostentatious religious symbols (such as giant cross necklaces, burqas, or turbans) while on the job. These are the "discriminatory laws" of which the presenter spoke. The query forced Blanchet to remind the presenter that his was officially recognized as a nation and not a "distinct society", whatever that means; not a mere province of Canada, and also to rebuke the notion that Quebecers are collectively racists for overwhelmingly supporting laws preserving their common language against English encroachment from without and the local separation of church and state. I found the boundless obnoxiousness of this kind of official wokeness, and the ironic utilization of it to justify transparent Canadian national chauvinism, absolutely insufferable, and so apparently did the people of Quebec, as by the following morning the Premier of Quebec had requested an apology and the leaders of Canada's two main parties, Trudeau and O'Toole, had both made public statements denouncing the notion that Quebecers are collectively racists. (Notably, Trudeau and O'Toole waited until the following day to offer solidarity, as if to perhaps gauge the public response first before deciding their opinion. ) Anyway, this was the kind of treatment that he, and Quebec, received broadly, and it continued even in the CBC's post-debate coverage later in the evening, in which I noticed that Blanchet was scarcely mentioned and de-contextualized the one time his partication was even brought up. There is indeed a bigoted nation here, but it's not the historically colonized, and apparently still marginalized, Quebec.

To my immense satisfaction, Mr. Blanchet did force an opportunity to briefly but specifically defend Bill 21 eventually, and had this to say of it: "Quebec wants religion out of the state affairs because religion never protected equality for women, and..never..will." Truer words were never spoken and I never thought I'd see the day that someone would have the audacity to speak that kind of controversial truth in a debate of party leaders for any country! Ask the women of Afghanistan if they feel liberated by the burqa, for example. Many women are forced by their husbands to conceal every inch of their bodies for shame of being female like that and might frankly find something like Bill 21 a nice excuse they can throw back to avoid doing so for at least part of their day. Either way, it's not the message to young girls and women that the state should be supporting. I like and respect the secularism of majority French-speaking countries like France and Quebec. Detractors will speak of discrimination against beliefs, but they'll never say a thing about the way those beliefs discriminate against actual people; namely women. People matter more than opinions, and especially groundless ones. For the daring frankness of this take alone, I'd support Blanchet's party in a heartbeat were I a Quebecer, personally.

Blanchet's perspective as the representative of a traditionally marginalized nation I felt became especially valuable when the treatment of indigenous nations was brought up. In response to an 18-year-old Ojibway first-time voter who asked all the leaders what they'll do to rebuild trust between his people and the federal government after 150 years of broken promises, Blanchet offered this clearly heartfelt opinion:

"Your question is quite moving. I would say that no one is entitled to tell any nation what to do or what to think and that every nation has to be recognized as such. Either [he meant 'whether'] it is a nation of 300 [indigenous] people like there is in Quebec or 8-million-people nation like Quebec is, it calls for a relationship between equals. It calls for a relationship in which nobody tells the other party that they are stronger, bigger, richer, and therefore you will do as you are told, even if we say it politely, and first you provide clean water to everybody."

I found it quite powerful and a perspective born out of the kind of indisputable sincerity that could only come from someone in his position vis-a-vis the nation of Canada. Even if other leaders had spoken the exact same words, the impact wouldn't, and couldn't, have been the same. In fact, all of his remarks on the subject of first nations, even beyond these, seemed the most spot-on of all.

I hope Blanchet's party does well in Quebec (which is the only place they campaign for obvious reasons). He comes off to me as an honest and straightforward person and offered a breath of fresh air from the predictable plastic phrases, political correctness, and generic styles and attack lines of the rest. Beyond that, I don't think I care what the outcome of this election is.

Last edited by Jaicee - on 12 September 2021