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Bloc Québecois leader Gilles Duceppe has just announced his resignation.
Il tire sa reverence. He tips his hat, and backs away, if not too graciously.
This is Duceppe's second such resignation, and we can now hope it is his last.
The custom is that one should find something good to say about a person in such circumstances.
Indeed, one might mention that Duceppe was a one time union militant, and, even earlier, a Marxist Leninist; that he is the son of the late and sainted figure of Québec theatre, Jean Duceppe; that he liked to portray himself as a progressive, a fighter for the environment and the rights of the poor, and for a foreign policy based on human rights.
In the most recent election campaign, for instance, Duceppe was the only party leader to speak vigorously against Canadian sales of military equipment to execution-happy Saudi Arabia.
This writer is not, however, going to waste any ink praising Duceppe.
I come only to bury the outgoing Bloc leader (politically), and earnestly hope he stays buried, for good.
In this past campaign, if NDP leader Tom Mulcair earned honour for taking a principled and courageous stand on the niqab, knowing how much it would hurt his party in the Quebec heartland, Duceppe covered himself with dishonour.
It is one thing to rationally advocate the view that a person should not cover their face at a public citizenship ceremony, notwithstanding their religious convictions.
It is very different to turn that plausible and defensible position into an open appeal to hate and fear.
That is what Duceppe and his party did with their now infamous attack ad against the NDP.
You may have seen it.
It depicted a river of black oil that transformed itself into a scary and sinister looking woman wearing a black niqab.
The Bloc was making a crude association between the NDP's notional support of the Energy East pipeline (an assertion not supported by facts) and the undefined and unexplained threat to Quebec and Quebeckers of a person who chooses to wear the veil.
The ad did not try to enunciate the arguments for revealing one's face in certain cases. It did not try to make any argument at all, in fact.
To their credit, even the Conservatives, in their Quebec advertising, specified that they believed one should uncover one's face when swearing a citizenship oath. They put those words in Stephen Harper's mouth and showed no inflammatory image, made no overt appeal to fear and hatred.
What the Bloc did had nothing to do with the circumstances under which it might be inappropriate to cover one's face. It was an open and brazen appeal to the lowest impulses of fear and resentment toward the other.
In resorting to this sort of message, they were using a classic tactic of the populist and nationalist Right.
Indeed, such appeals to irrational resentment have been among the main propaganda weapons of -- and I use this word with trepidation, but believe it is justified here -- fascism.
Shame on the Bloc, and shame on Duceppe.
And thank you to the voters of Laurier-Sainte-Marie, in the heart of Montreal, who told a one-time decent and respectful leader who, in this campaign, was willing to resort to an appeal to racism to fuck off!
That's all I have to say.
Good riddance Gilles -- and here's hoping that any politicians who might be tempted to stoop to your tactics in the future take heed.
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