Imagine a government that legislates that right-handedness shall be the official policy of the state and that while left-handers will be tolerated, it's up to them to adapt to a province that is officially right handed.
The government's rationale is that since over 80% of the population is already right-handed, it makes for a more cohesive society if we were all the same.
And so the government requires that everybody who works in public must be able to use the right hand. Machinery should be built for right-handers alone and lefties are told that they must become ambidextrous, if they want to succeed in this province.
Most lefties sadly acquiesce, they use their right hand in public but switch back in the privacy of their home. Every time they rise up and argue for left-handed rights, the extremists come out to defend the government's policy.
These extremists are so radical that they believe that left-handedness should be driven out of children from the time they enter school. They tell lefties who complain that they should consider moving out of the province.
Now imagine a referendum, where this policy will be enshrined, the province will become even more radically right-handed.
The referendum fails by the narrowest of margins. The Premier, the sponsor of the failed referendum, rails that it's those nasty left-handers that voted NO in the referendum, that they are to blame. If one would count only the votes of right-handers, the referendum would have been successful!
Years later, a certain politician gives a radio interview where he expresses shock and dismay, that 95% of left-handers voted 'NO' in the referendum.
'How can it be that left-handers so massively rejected the right-hand manifesto?' He wonders aloud.
He meets a leader of the left-handed rights movement in the barbershop and chastises him for his community's rejection of the will of the majority.
"We are left-handers. Why on Earth would we vote against our own interests?" answers the leader"
"To show solidarity and respect for the majority, that's why!" snorts the politician.
For those unfamiliar with Mr. Michaud, he is a longtime separatist of the old school. A good buddy of René Lévesque, it was he who provided an alibi when the then Premier ran down and killed an unfortunate vagrant in the middle of the night, backing up Lésveque's story that he wasn't drinking that night. Hmmmm.....
Of course the police conveniently forgot to administer a Breathalyzer test on Levesque and the whole affair was hushed up rather conveniently. Hey, it's Quebec....
Michaud bounced around a bunch of government jobs, courtesy of Lésveque, for the next decade, but after losing a pile of dough in an investment scheme, which he blamed the banks for, he became a crusader, known as Robin des banques, insisting that bank directors become more accountable.
In 2000, Michaud, furious about how the vast majority of Jews (and other ethnics) voted in the referendum, made some injudicious comments on a radio show, complaining that Jews acted as if they were the only people to suffer a holocaust.
He complained that in Jewish areas of Montreal, absolutely nobody voted in favour of the referendum, nobody at all. According to Michaud the reason for this phenomenon;
"There are three reasons for this: the first is a rejection phenomenon. They reject us completely. The second is that there is a feeling of hatred. The third is that they have understood nothing of what they said."A couple of days later he re-iterated these remarks in an ad hoc submission before the Estates General on Language. He nastily accused the B'nai Brith of being extremist and anti-Quebec and his tone as well as the content of his remarks enraged politicians of all stripes. Many in the Parti Quebecois were sensitive to opening themselves up to charges of racism.
This was the trigger of the so-called Michaud Affair
Lucien Bouchard, the new sovereignist Premier, had enough of the radical Michaud and looked to dump him from the party as well nixing the possibility of him running as PQ candidate in Mercier riding.
The next day, in the National Assembly, Bouchard ordered his caucus to support a motion of censure put forward by Lawrence Bergman, a Jewish Liberal member of the Assembly.
"That the National Assembly condemns, without nuances, clearly and unanimously, the unacceptable remarks made with regard to ethnic communities, particularly in respect of the Jewish community maintained by Yves Michaud at hearings of the Estates General on French in Montreal, December 13, 2000" LINK
And ever since, Michaud has been wearing been the goat horns of a denounced racist. It hasn't been easy for him, he's remained heart-broken and bitter over the label of a racist.
Michaud soldiers on, trying to have that resolution overturned with the aide of a large group of supporters which has been mobilized to help rehabilitate his 'good' name and force the National Assembly to reverse the condemnation.
The rehabilitation of Michaud has become a cause celebre, with supporters painting him as modern day Alfred Dreyfus, the wrongly convicted and betrayed French military officer.
In the finest tradition of Emile Zola's J'accuse!, letters and books have been written in his defence.
But is Michaud guiltless?
The essential question remains... Were Michaud's statements racist?
I think I have to quote Robert Libman, ex mayor of the predominantly Jewish Montreal suburb of City of Côte Saint-Luc, who called Michaud "a sovereignist dinosaur".
While none of Michaud's statements can be construed as antisemitic, per se, his tone was certainly nasty.
He puts forward the disturbing notion that ethnics and anglophones 'owe' a certain measure of respect to the francophone majority and as such have an obligation to act as the francophone majority, especially when it comes to voting.
At best this attitude is paternalistic and at worst, racist.
While Michaud is shocked and dismayed at the massive rejection of sovereignty by anglos and ethnics, I remain surprised that even one person from these communities voted YES.
What sane left-hander, would vote for a right-handed agenda that discriminated against them
There is a certain rage that exists in the sovereignty camp against anglos and ethnics who are blamed for the failure of the last referendum. Jacques Parizeau summed it up rather succinctly in his referendum night speech when he blamed the loss on "money and the ethnic vote"(with 'money' a clear euphemism for Anglophones.)
That rage is based on the concept that minorities shouldn't have the right to confound the will of the majority. Minorities should vote in the best interest of the majority, and unlike francophones, forgo their own selfish interests.
That being said, I must say that I do feel some sympathy for Mr. Michaud.
He seems genuinely hurt and humiliated by the charge of racism and true racists aren't particularly troubled by such condemnations.
But until he understands why left-handers will never vote for a right-handed agenda, he is doomed to arrive at his faulty conclusions.
Espousing his opinion that we are somehow wrong and unfair by voting in our own best interest, is patently foolish and supposes that only francophones have that right.
That may not be racism, but it certainly is wrong.