Toula Drimonis: This is the Quebec government I want for 2024

Identity politics that seek homogeneity at the cost of diversity will always find resistance here because it’s not who we are — or ever will be.

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In 2023, Montreal’s English-speaking and allophone communities were forced to spend far too much time justifying our presence. People’s sense of belonging has been shattered and many feel defeated by the constant political attacks, no longer sure they have a future here. In 2024, I want that to change.

It’s time to challenge the CAQ government’s divisive rhetoric. I don’t care whether your ancestors took a boat over in the 16th century, docked at Pier 21 in the 1950s or landed at Trudeau airport two years ago. I care that we’re working together to build a better Quebec.

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For 2024, I want a government focused on what it was elected to do: making life better for Quebecers. All Quebecers. A government less obsessed with identity politics and more obsessed with health care, education and housing.

A recent Léger survey points to Quebecers’ top concerns as being the cost of living, health care, housing affordability, climate change and education. Concern for the French language didn’t even break the top five. Not because it isn’t important, but it’s not remotely the biggest crisis facing Quebecers today — no matter how some insist otherwise. A recent OQLF study shows more Quebec children are receiving a French education than ever before. Despite 94.5 per cent of us being able to carry on a basic conversation in French, this government insists we only focus on a tiny minority that isn’t able.

In 2024, I want political leaders who don’t wield language as a weapon, using its protection to justify legislation that undermines minority rights. Leaders who don’t nurse past grievances for political gain, but focus on today’s challenges.

I want a government that understands Montreal is proudly and officially French but will never be only French. Because this city is also English, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Vietnamese, Italian, Creole, Armenian, Punjabi, Portuguese …

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Cities, like any vibrant, living entity, evolve and behave according to who loves them and invests in them. Montreal wouldn’t be Montreal without all of us.

There’s no nuance in the CAQ’s parochial vision for the kind of layered existence most Montrealers live. No nuance for our plurality and multiple loyalties. Identity politics that seek homogeneity at the cost of diversity will always find resistance here because it’s not who we are — or ever will be.

I want a government that truly understands what makes this city tick. A government that celebrates all Montreal communities that, for generations, have contributed to how this city looks, sounds and tastes. A government that plays on Montreal’s strengths, not one that seeks to undermine its vitality and institutions, forever trying to dim its light and tamp down its magic.

I want a government that prides itself on confidently welcoming immigrants, providing them with the resources to acquire a new language and embrace a new culture. Not a punitive government that pre-emptively treats newcomers (even refugees running for their lives) as a menace to the majority culture and language, lying about how 80 per cent of immigrants don’t integrate.

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I want a government that makes people fall in love with the French language and culture, constantly finding new ways to include them. And, yes, that includes Mandarin-speaking grandparents; hijab-wearing moms; the overwhelmed, scared refugee kid who can’t even say “merci” yet, but who one day will sit down to write a book about finding home — in the language of the majority.

I want a government that understands patience and time are required for successful integration. Not a government influenced by xenophobic pundits who view everything foreign as a threat to be rejected.

I want a government that mirrors the kindness and openness of the Quebecers I cross paths with daily, who pride themselves on wanting a more just society. A government that speaks to the best in us, not one that would prefer us small and scared.

Toula Drimonis is a Montreal journalist and the author of We, the Others: Allophones, Immigrants, and Belonging in Canada.

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