If you'll excuse the vanity, I'd like to use this space to talk about my love life. Not because it's particularly exciting, but because it could perhaps help illustrate the human impact of hysterical Parti Quebecois policies and Quebec's overall decline, which all political factions have contributed to. I suspect many others are in the same boat, particularly other young Anglophones.
As I prepare to become a 30-something this month (yes, CJAD 800 listeners, I sound older and grumpier than I am), I've had three serious relationships end this past decade because the highly intelligent and qualified women in question could not find employment or have access to other opportunities in Quebec. All three were Anglophone Jews, like myself.
The most recent case was particularly disappointing because "Stacey" is the very type of recent graduate that Quebec needs to retain; she's trilingual, served as a regional director of a major Canadian non-profit and has three degrees, including a master's. Unfortunately for Stacey, despite her qualifications, her French wasn't perfect. Like many Anglos, her conversational French is fine, but she has a thick accent and makes frequent grammatical mistakes (not unlike many Francophones, mind you - 49% of all Quebecers struggle with literacy issues).
Though I'm uncertain if hard data exists to substantiate my claim, anecdotally I believe it's safe to say that Anglo Quebecers who have even minor issues with written and spoken French face systematic discrimination when trying to find employment in Quebec, particularly in the public sector (there's plenty of evidence on that front with regards to minorities in general). Why don't we all speak French like everyone else (a common criticism)? Those of us schooled in the public system were never taught the language properly (my immigrant parents were forced into the Anglo Protestant system because they were Jews - my mother, a Francophone, then grew up as an Anglo in Outremont because her kind wasn't wanted at the time). I get by in French now because of my Moroccan background and I was fortunate enough to have been educated in part in the Franco private system as a kid.
With the release of the Charter of Values, the PQ government is now giving minorities new reasons to consider leaving. Stacey, whose one-way ticket to Tel Aviv is booked for Jan. 7, 2014, told me she cried when hearing my simultaneous translation of Bernard Drainville's Charter announcement today on CJAD (curious, because the Premier said the bill would unite us all). She feels that her and the "ostentatious" Star of David necklace around her neck don't belong in Quebec, and it's difficult to convince her otherwise given the PQ's take it or leave it attitude toward minorities in this province.
It's heartbreaking. Not because I'm single again, but because Stacey's predicament is painfully common. Language and identity insecurity in Quebec, its corresponding legislation and subsequent damage to the economy is forcing people out. As Michel Kelly-Gagnon of the Montreal Economic Institute demonstrated recently, it's not just an Anglo problem - so it's OK to take the flight seriously. Anyone who disputes that Quebec's social policies aren't hurting the economy and costing us jobs is asleep at the switch and hasn't read the business section of any newspaper in the past year.
The Untold Consequences
There are all kinds of things that Montreal 20-somethings ask each other before entering into a serious relationship: Do you have an STI? Do you want to meet my parents? How do you feel about polyamory? Do you do drugs? Do you want to do some drugs right now? Add one more to the list: Are you going to stay in Quebec?
Young, single Anglo millennials know exactly what I'm talking about. It's an issue. On top of the economic consequences of the brain drain, there are the human consequences that our leaders seem completely immune to: Families separated, loves lost and an increasing hopelessness and exasperation with the place we've called home since the early '80s.
People have asked me why I've seemed particularly angry these last few months. These are among the reasons. But my anger is fading, along with any hope that Quebec can become the tolerant, open and prosperous society it was meant to be; as far back as 200 years ago when Ezekiel Hart, an observant Jew who wore a kippah, was elected three times to the legislative assembly in Trois-Rivieres. It is being replaced by sadness because I fear that no Quebec leader has the integrity nor the courage to help create a better society for all Quebecers.
It's not even an Anglo thing, nor a Jewish thing - it's a "les autres" thing. Anglos, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs; we're all in the same boat in the Quebec outlined by this radical incarnation of the PQ. They, along with their demented mouthpieces in sensationalist tabloids and on talk-radio, are making it perfectly clear that Quebec is for "nous autres" and not us. Consider your message received, Mrs. Marois and Mr. Drainville. Loud and clear. An entire generation of linguistic and ethnic minorities will act accordingly.
And with regards to my love life, I guess the only solution is to date a sovereignist woman. She won't go anywhere. She'd be content going down with the ship.
Note: This post has updated from its original version. Some, correctly, thought it was too Anglo-centric. It was written in the first person from my own perspective as an Anglo Jew and not meant to be in-depth political analysis. You can get a more complete sense of my views on Quebec in The National Post.