‘What rights will we recognize?’: Jacques Parizeau muses on anglo rights in an independent Quebec at sovereignist rally
MONTREAL — Federal constitutional guarantees on the use of English in Quebec “will disappear” with an independent Quebec, Jacques Parizeau said Saturday, urging the sovereignist Option Nationale party to both consider and decide what would replace them.
“Once we are rid of constitutional constraints,” he asked — without answering — “where will we go with regard to the anglophones, for example? What rights will we recognize?
“I’m not here to make comments on your [party] program,” he said. However, “get rid of the Supreme Court [of Canada] and there will be no guarantee in the constitution for English schooling,” he said. “All that will disappear. Will we go back to the original Bill 101?”
The former Parti Québécois premier was speaking to an audience mostly under 35 years of age and gathered at a weekend convention to build the fledgling pro-independence party.
Parizeau, an influential figure who nearly led Quebec to independence in 1995, said the PQ government shouldn’t shy away from using public funds to work toward independence.
“For 15 years, I’ve heard successive leaders of the Parti Quebecois say, ’We will not use public funds to promote sovereignty,”’ he said Saturday.
“Well, if you don’t want to use public funds to promote sovereignty, why are you here?”
Option Nationale Leader Jean-Martin Aussant also took issue with the PQ’s position, calling it an “abdication of leadership.”
He told his audience they are “the yeast in the dough” required to achieve Quebec independence.
During a 35-minute pep talk punctuated at both ends by standing ovations, the former Parti Québécois leader and provincial premier repeatedly urged more than 1,000 paying rapt attention in a packed hall: “Don’t be afraid of your dreams.”
The party is gathered at the Palais des congrès for a convention this weekend. It will include the adoption of an electoral platform for the next provincial election. Aussant will also be subject to a confidence vote Sunday.
Founded in October 2011, Option Nationale got less than 2% of the votes in September’s provincial election, and won no seats. The party counts about 8,000 members.
Still, “what you have all done in one and a half years is absolutely extraordinary,” Parizeau said.
Walking slowly and using a cane, Parizeau made a lengthy trek down the middle of the meeting hall after he finished, accompanied in the stately procession by undiminishing cheers while illuminated by the lights of TV crews.
He would not be available for any media interviews, organizers said after Parizeau had completed his exit.
Catherine Dorion, who ran for Option Nationale in the Taschereau riding near Quebec City, admitted that party activists had a “small” disappointment when Aussant failed to retain his seat in the last election. But she said enthusiasm for the party has resurfaced, and the team is already prepared for another election campaign.
- With files from The Canadian Press