By Robert Green | Published August 30, 2016 by Ricochet.media
Horrified by the Parti Québécois’s proposed Charter of Values and the conservative ethnic nationalism it represented, the election of 2014 saw large numbers of Quebecers turn to a corrupt, austerity-mad Liberal Party, hoping it to be a lesser evil.
This fall, high school students throughout Quebec will reap the consequences of this short-sighted political calculation as they are subjected to a dogmatic, exclusionary and politically regressive history program that is as much the product of the PQ’s conservative ethnic nationalism as it is the Liberal Party’s myopic obsession with public sector austerity.
An ideologically driven reform
The genesis of this reform begins with the lobbying efforts of la Coalition pour l’histoire, an organization founded by nationalist historians Éric Bédard and Robert Comeau with the support of organizations such as la Fondation Lionel-Groulx, le Mouvement national des Québécois, and la Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal. Despite the fact that Quebec’s current curriculum contains numerous and frequent references to Quebec nationalism and the Quebec nation, the coalition sees it as its mission to stop what it calls the “denationalization” of Quebec history.
The politics of this coalition were laid bare in 2013 when the organization refused to meet with the members of the initial committee set up to reform the curriculum, because of the “divergent views” that would be present. Evidently the coalition members wanted a committee as monolithic in its composition as the view of Quebec society they sought to impose on Quebec’s students.
The PQ education minister of the day, Marie Malavoy, subsequently decided to meet privately with a small group of coalition supporters. Cancelling a meeting of the larger, more diverse committee was a telling indication of the direction she was intending on taking the program.
In an open letter published by Le Devoir, the leadership of L’Association québécoise pour l’enseignement en univers social (AQEUS) scolded the minister for taking her advice from a committee of nationalist historians that not only excluded any participation from teachers and pedagogical experts, but also prevented one historian from participating because of his activism with Québec Solidaire. They also accused the minister of “instrumentalizing” the teaching of history for “purely partisan and political ends.”
Though the report that would serve as the basis for the PQ’s pilot program did eventually involve a modest process of consultation, the end result clearly reflected the coalition’s desires for the program. Coalition spokesperson Robert Comeau was quoted in Le Devoir as being “very satisfied.”