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The Michaud Affair (in French l'Affaire Michaud) was a political controversy in Quebec that began in 2000. It revolved around the comments of Parti Québécois supporter Yves Michaud, those of the Quebec Jewish community (through the B'nai B'rith organization) and the subsequent censure motion from the National Assembly of Quebec members of parliament.

Contents

The Affair

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CKAC Interview

What has been called the "Michaud Affair" started on December 5, 2000, in an interview on the Montreal radio station CKAC. Talk show host Paul Arcand asked: "Don't you feel that there is a lack of interest of a good part of the population on the question of sovereignty and the national question, people who have had enough, for whom it is all over, (who say) let's move on to something else?".

To which Yves Michaud replied: "Well, I will tell you an anecdote. I was... I went to get my hair cut about a month ago. There was a Liberal senator who I will not name who doesn't speak [French]... even though he represents a French-speaking riding and who asked me: 'Are you still a separatist, Yves?' I said 'Yes, yes I am separatist just as you are Jewish. It took 2000 years for your people to have its homeland in Israel.' I said: 'Me, whether it takes 10, 50, or 100 more years it can wait.' So he told me: 'It's not the same.'"

"It's never the same for them. So I said: it is not the same? The Armenians did not suffer, the Palestinians did not suffer, the Rwandans did not suffer. It's always (just) you. You are the only people who suffered in the history of humanity."

"After that, I was fed up. And here we are, I am completely indignant... that some suggested to rename the metro station [named after] Lionel Groulx, who was the spiritual father of two generations of Quebecers and is almost a Quebec idol. It's the B'nai B'rith that did that, which was the extremist phalange... There has been world Zionism... "

The Senator mentioned is widely considered to be Leo Kolber.

Estases-General

On December 13, Michaud presented a memorandum to Quebec's "Estates-General on the situation of the French language". He abandoned some parts of his text to say this, in front of members of the B'nai B'rith who were waiting their turn to speak:

"Groulx invited us 'to have, like the Jews, their rough will to survive, their invincible spirit of solidarity, their imperishable moral armor'. And the historian was giving the example of the Jewish people as a model to be followed so that Quebecers affirm their own national identity and fully assume the heritage of their history. Groulx, who is one of the intellectual guides of two generations of Quebecers and one whose name some wanted to see removed from the Lionel-Groulx station a few years ago, to probably replace it by the "Mordecai Richler" station, the René Lévesque Boulevard by, no doubt, "Ariel Sharon" boulevard, the Jacques-Cartier Place by the "Galganov" place, and so on. It is a little satirical, it is a little bit jokingly that I say that, but I think that some others are exaggerating and going a little too far. Immigrants, we want some. Yes, as much as possible and pushing up to the limit of our capacities to welcome them. Immigrants who will not only have rights but also responsibilities with regard to one of the most generous societies in the world which welcomes them with open arms and wallets, immigrants with responsibilities, that is, understanding and speaking our language, open to our culture, our way of working, of doing things, of interpreting the world in the French language and accompanying us on the road which leads us to the control of all the tools for our development (...)

There is an ethnic vote against the sovereignty of the people of Quebec. If we do not integrate our immigrants, well then, we will enter on the slope of the Louisianization, and folklorization of our society."

Interpretation

The Michaud Affair re-awakened the bitter, very emotional and controversial divisions within the Parti Québécois between proponents of "civic nationalism" (soft nationalists, aka "nationalistes modérés") versus "republican nationalism" (hard liners, aka "purs et durs").

This Affair must be interpreted in the context of long-standing historical tensions between some more radical factions within the Quebec nationalist movement and the English-speaking and Jewish communities of Quebec ("anglophones"). Consequently, whereas most members of the Jewish and English speaking community and the general media consider Michaud's allegations to lean towards antisemitism, to Michaud supporters within the PQ and the sovereignist movement generally the Michaud Affair is the result of censorship and defamation against the "ethnic Quebecker" minority and its "rightful quest for political independence and autonomy". This question is an extremely emotional one for both the PQ's more radical ethnic-nationalist supporters and the more radical Anglophone federalists of Quebec.

Aftermath

The director of B'nai B'rith's Quebec chapter, Robert Libman, who was in the audience, sent a memo to then Premier Lucien Bouchard requesting that he stop Michaud from being the PQ's candidate in the Mercier riding. The next day, the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, Jean Charest, presented to the National Assembly of Quebec a motion condemning the sentiments and ideas expressed by Yves Michaud at the Estates-General. The motion was adopted unanimously, without debate and without presentation of an auditive or textual record of the remarks in question.

As a result, former Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau, and many others signed an open letter condemning the hasty resolution and supporting Michaud's right to freedom of expression. The letter was published in several newspapers. Later, the full quotes of what Michaud had said were published.

The event, which is said to have been a reason for Lucien Bouchard's resignation on January 11, 2001, was not listed in B'nai Brith's annual compilation of anti-semitic events. During an interview for Voir magazine for the week of March 1, 2001, Robert Libman stated that he did not think Yves Michaud was an anti-semite and that his remarks had been distorted.

Some less-involved observers in the media have expressed the view that although Michaud's comments were borderline and controversial as they could be interpreted as banalization of the Shoah, the comparisons made by his accusers to notable antisemites like Ernst Zündel were excessive and exaggerated Michaud's intent.

Michaud has been battling in court to defend his reputation since that time.

See also

External links


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