It was not so long ago, the toughest, and at times bitterest, battle in Canada was that of Quebec vs. the ROC (Rest of Canada).
The language would get very tough. To fray nerve endings even more, an occasional news analysis piece would list which of this nation’s military assets were permanently housed in Quebec, and would ask whether a deeply conflicted national divorce might lead to settlement negotiations conducted at the business end of a CF-18.
Such scenarios served to lead up to Oct. 30, 1995, when 93.52 per cent of Quebec’s 5,087,009 registered voters answered the question, “Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Quebec and the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?”
While the “Yes” side appeared to have much of the momentum, the night of Oct. 30 would reveal a razor-thin margin of victory for the “No” option: 54,288 votes, or 50.58 per cent opted for Quebec to remain a member of Confederation, while 49.42 per cent wanted out.
Canada was saved from the brink.
WATCH: Should Maxime Bernier get the boot from the Conservative caucus?
It was a huge sigh of relief for those of us who believed in Canada with Quebec, and particularly for those of us who lived in Montreal during the October Crisis of 1970, when the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ)’s ongoing terror war was stepped up to include two kidnappings, one resulting in the murder of Quebec’s Transport Minister Pierre Laporte.
So, 23 years later, what is the question which best describes the new centre of Canada’s national unease?
In its most simple form, it’s whether you side with, or oppose, a series of six tweets issued last Sunday by Maxime Bernier, Conservative Party of Canada MP from Quebec. For example, he tweeted: “having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong. People who refuse to integrate into our society and want to live apart in their ghetto don’t make our society strong.”
There was more and there’s been more since from Bernier in response to Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s cautious foray into criticizing the man who last year came within a Quebec referendum percentage of votes of becoming Conservative Party leader himself, and who still counts many party members among his support.
WATCH: Andrew Scheer responds to Bernier’s controversial tweets
There has been a steady stream of increasingly emotional and agitated support for and opposition to Maxime Bernier, who will, I suspect, not back away for a moment from his core message.
A case in point? Bernier’s tweet to Liberal Pakistani-Canadian MP Iqra Khalid, who this week apologized for and rescinded an “award she had bestowed on a man labelled purveyor of anti-antisemitism,” wrote Canadian Press.
Bernier said: “So, some beliefs are not acceptable in our infinitely diverse multicultural fabric? Immigrants who bring their conflicts and hatred here are not welcome? There is a line to be drawn somewhere after all? I’m shocked!!!”
This Saturday, I’ll be speaking with Raheel Raza, Muslim Canadian, author, speaker, teacher, who was delivered a standing ovation in Canada’s Parliament, and Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a former U.S. Navy Lt. Commander, and author and past president of the Arizona Medical Association.
On Sunday’s program, outspoken Canadian commentator, political cartoonist and Washington Post columnist J.J. McCullough joins me to share his thoughts on Maxime Bernier’s views.
There will be time for callers across Canada to share their thoughts on an issue which is arguably more significant than the one Quebecers decided on Oct. 30, 1995.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.