The news stories coming out of the Commission on Reasonable Accomodation (or whatever it’s official name is) have really been eye-opening. It’s no secret that we have paranoid xenophobes here. But this commission, going around the province (starting with small rural towns and ending in Montreal) seems to be legitimizing it.
Suddenly, it’s no longer taboo to express an irrational, paranoid fear of immigrants flooding in to take over your country. To suggest that a few dozen quiet immigrants with cloth over their faces settling in a town hundreds of kilometres away is going to somehow radically alter the way of life in a place that is 96% Catholic might have once been considered ignorant racism. But now that the commission is coming along, it’s giving these lunatics a forum in which to express their paranoia.
Tonight in a park, as I watched a free movie screening, one of the spectators shouted at the end, complaining that the film was not in French and that Quebec is a French-only province. The man was clearly off his rocker, and the crowd stayed silent in response. The young moderator of the evening, in an attempt at diplomacy, repeated an invitation to a post-screening party in the province’s official language, but the man was still yelling as she spoke in his tongue. He wasn’t interested in accomodation, he just wanted to yell.
Now if that same man were to walk into a commission hearing room and give those opinions into a microphone, suddenly it would become news. It would get into the newspapers, and would require acknowledgment and analysis.
I realize I’m generalizing here, but normal people have better things to do with their lives than attend these hearings. It’s the unemployed crazies who want someone to blame for their crappy lives that come to these town halls and blame immigrants they’ve never seen or met.
Perhaps there’s no alternative to this. We’re dealing with questions of morality, and that requires public consultation. But it still irks me that we’re giving an open mic to racist, xenophobic extremists and pretending like their opinions are justified.