Canadians may be too complacent or stupid to know it, but there's a war on. It's episodic-we're in a lull until the next unity referendum-and there aren't any anglo guerrillas ambushing patrols of the Quebec army from Montreal island rooftops, or engaging in tit-for-tat killings with a rejuvenated FLQ-at least not yet-but it's a war all right, with Canada's existence as the stakes.
So far, writes Diane Francis in Fighting for Canada (Key Porter, 192 pages, $21.95 paper), the war is being fought by a few brave and loyal Canadians, francophones and anglophones, of whom, she makes clear, she is a prominent example. But we'd all better enlist tout de suite, and get our so-called leaders' derrières in gear as well, or the enemy will send the country down the tubes.
The enemy is the "ruthless elite" of Quebec separatists, whose cynical drive for power has nothing to do with legitimate self-determination. On the contrary, Francis opines, separatism "is a racially motivated conspiracy that has run roughshod over human rights, fair play, the Quebec economy, and democracy." For thirty years, three Quebec-born prime ministers have done nothing to stop the separatist cabal in its tracks: "Canadians have been victims of a dangerous squabble between members of Quebec's political elite," she writes.
If explanations of our social and political quandary fall along a spectrum between simplicity and complexity, Francis's analysis is as simple as they come: Parizeau and Bouchard are acting treasonably; Quebec is blackmailing English Canada; the crackpot former FLQ terrorist Raymond Villeneuve with his enemies' "hit list" of companies and individuals (which includes Francis) who should be driven out of the province is probably in cahoots with the P.Q. government; that same government "Mexicanized" the referendum through a "massive conspiracy" to rig the results by declaring federalist ballots spoiled. Francis believes that there should be no concessions whatsoever to Quebec in subsequent constitutional negotiations-"distinct society", or any equivalent, be damned; if Quebec votes to leave (by a 66 percent majority-as if that requirement could be imposed now), it should be partitioned along linguistic lines; and so on.
This is a disturbing, if mildly entertaining, rant, unencumbered by notions of political compromise or genuine nationalist aspiration, the need for a subtle balancing of options, for patience, and for continuing civil dialogue and discussion, however painful and drawn-out those may be.
The alternative, embodied in Francis's "in-your-face" approach to Quebec, may well result in some real version of the war she claims to be already declared.