Whither the Quebec sovereignty movement?

MONTREAL – As president of the St-Jean-Baptiste Society, Mario Beaulieu is one of the most strident standard-bearers for Quebec independence. So it might seem odd to some familiar with the sovereignty movement’s recent identity controversies that he shared a podium in a theatre in the Village, where he was flanked by separatists representing groups in Catalonia and Algeria.

“There were a lot of young people who left the Parti Quebecois because those young people wanted independence above everything else,” he said in French. Where the PQ went wrong, he believes, was “the moment that it started to hide the discussion on Quebec independence.”

The society, with the two other groups, is holding a concert at Le National theatre on St. Catherine Street in solidarity of sovereignty, hoping to bolster support for a younger set that political scientists say are becoming increasingly disillusioned with it.

“Younger people don’t feel the same way as the generation that founded the PQ,” said Harold Chorney, a politics professor at Concordia University.

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The struggle to have French recognized as a fully fledged language in Quebec was not a battle that younger Quebeckers had to go through, he said. What’s more, the PQ’s divisive message brought on by the Charter of Values polarized voters, he added.

“They decided to radicalize their platform and reject civic nationalism, and make it ‘c’est nous’ — it’s all about us,” Chorney said. “Therefore they decided that it’s not about you.”

By now the election results of April 7 are already well-known — the Liberals gained a majority by winning 70 seats, thrashing the PQ in the independence party’s worst showing since the first election it entered in 1970.

As analysts pick through the bones of the election, they note that the PQ’s support was scattered by the presence of hard-line left-wing sovereigntists who were the ideological pacemakers for the party and the arrival of media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau. Peladeau’s hardnosed history with unions in his Quebecor media empire disaffected many in the labour movement that the PQ relies on for much of its support.

“They have to do serious rethinking of what they want to be,” Chorney said. “Who do they stand for? What do they want to represent?”

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