Good riddance, ex-Premier Marois

I understand that politically correct offers of thanks to outgoing Premier Pauline Marois for her “service” to Quebec will happen. Still, I am confused when I hear them, given that Marois’ version of “service” was to divide Quebecers, sow hatred, and create space for people to “not be afraid to be intolerant” (her words).

However, reading Gazette columnist Jillian Page’s “appreciation” is simply shocking. To attempt to credit Marois for “putting herself in the line of fire,” literally, is to re-write what happened on the night of the 2012 election and what led up to it.

Let me be clear: I am not condoning shooting people one doesn’t agree with. We should not be surprised, however, that when someone runs a campaign meant on creating animosity between people and exploiting cultural and religious differences, and for what – personal, political gain – that someone would resort to extreme measures to stop it.

While die-hard Pequistes will claim that Premier Marois dedicated herself to Quebec, Monday night’s result shows clearly that most Quebecers understand that Marois’ only service was to her own narrow self-interest, at the expense of everyone who did not think like her or want what she wants. Rather than congratulate her, let us get right to the difficult work of building the bridges she destroyed and undoing the vast damage she caused to our communities and to our province.


Let’s build bridges in Quebec

The identity and Charter of Values debates in Quebec have definitely increased tensions on both sides of this province’s linguistic divide. Personally, I am sad and angry at this state of affairs. I am scared for the future of this province. The separation debate is one thing, but trying to win an election by instilling fear of your neighbours is much, much worse. 

Much of the support for these divisive policies seems to be coming from Quebec’s “regions”. Areas outside of the big cities where the population is very homogeneous. They don’t see Muslims very often. Most of them don’t have Muslim friends, and I dare say that many might never have even met one. 

It seems that there are 2 plausible explanations for the 40%+ support of these  policies. 1) that the people who support them are truly hateful, or 2) that they are scared, insecure, fearful of what they don’t know or have much experience with. I fear that it could be #1, but I hope with all of my heart that it is #2. 

One friend told me that he is disappointed that through all of the complaining about these laws, we are seeing very few solutions being proposed. He’s absolutely right. I would like to propose a solution, one that I need your help in making happen. 

Let’s build bridges in Quebec. 

The media hasn’t been effective in getting people to see other viewpoints. Harmony doesn’t sell newspapers and ad space; conflict does. Sensationalism does. And I certainly don’t trust this government to help. It is in the PQ’s interest to sow division, fear, and discontent in its base. 

So what can we do? 

We need to go straight to them. We need to travel to where they are. We need these people to meet real live anglophones, real live allophones, real live Muslims, face to face.

We need to create a direct dialogue to show them what we contribute to Quebec and to make it patently clear that, contrary to what the PQ will have them believe, we are partners, not enemies. 

We need to organize town hall type meetings where we can pass along a positive, unfiltered message. Where everyone can learn about the other in a way that isn’t biased by government propaganda or media hype. 

We have a problem, and direct dialogue is the only way that has a chance to solve it. 

We need to do this now. Yesterday, in fact.

I don’t personally have the resources to make this happen, but many interested Quebecers do. If you believe that this plan might make a difference, please share this post on your social networks in hopes that the right people will hear about it and help make it a reality.

Thank you.

The Plausibility Test

People often tell me that I have an opinion about everything. While I wouldn’t go *that* far, it is hard to deny that I have a lot of opinions on various topics and am not afraid to share them. This is, after all, the basic premise for Mark Unleashed.

Following up on that question, I sometimes get asked how I know enough about all of these topics to have an opinion on them. The truth is that while there are topics that I am very knowledgeable about, mostly, I know a little bit about a lot of things.

I don’t know why I am this way. It might be a protection mechanism, self-defense, or it might arise from how I hate the feeling of being taken advantage of. I was always told that knowledge is power, and while it is not the end-all and be-all, it has taken me a long way.

Thankfully, in the last few years I have accepted that I have a lot left to learn. But, since life happens even though we don’t know all we need to know, I have devised a test that I think gets me off on the right foot in virtually every situation, regardless of my imperfect knowledge. I call it “The Plausibility Test” and its application is uber-simple. When someone shares an opinion, makes a comment, tries to convince me of something or sell me something, I start by asking myself: “is this plausible?”

I’ve mentioned this to people over the years, and there is sometimes a confusion between possibility and plausibility. I believe that anything is possible. Perhaps no one is travelling through time at this moment, but I believe that it is possible. In the absence of proof that something is not possible, I am inspired by the belief that it is.

So what is plausibility? Above all, it is subjective. What is plausible to you depends on your knowledge, experience, and perspective. It is therefore important to be present to all three of these factors. Consider that something is plausible to you if you can conceive of its existence or occurrence, based on what you know, have learned, or believe to be true.

Okay, okay, how about a concrete example. A friend, shocked, shares a post on facebook about a situation in a Montreal-area hospital from just over a week ago. He wants your reaction. You start reading:

A couple enters a local emergency room. The triage nurse asks the patient a question. The patient’s husband replies that she doesn’t understand and asks if the nurse can speak to his wife in English. The nurse, incensed, leaps up and screams at him (in French): “THIS IS QUEBEC! SPEAK FRENCH!”

You ask yourself: “is this plausible?” I harness my inner Mathnet detective and ask: “What do I know?” (For those who’ve never watched Square One TV and have no idea what I’m talking about, click here.”)

So, I know that Quebec is full of people who are fiercely defensive of their native language. I know that there’s a law in Quebec that requires French words to be twice the size of words in other languages on store signage (and even inspectors with rulers who don’t like the word pasta enforcing the law) and that currently, tensions are high in the province as the governing party is proposing a law that is dividing the population along linguistic lines and fostering hatred between people of different religions.

So, is this plausible? Yes. It is.

If this story had been set elsewhere, literally anywhere else in the Western world, I can’t see it being plausible to me. It is such a ridiculous story that it can’t possibly be true. But, given what I know about the situation in Quebec, it sadly makes sense.

In a nutshell, something that is plausible makes sense, at least to you.

The key to benefiting from the plausibility test is questioning that which you deem implausible and, not stopping the questioning until you have solved the test of plausibility. The test is solved when you gather information that suggests that the story is, in fact, plausible, or that you can’t.

It is important to remember that even if something is plausible, it might still be false. But, if you do not determine that it is plausible, then you must continue questioning to either satisfy that test or dismiss it outright. Accepting an implausible story is illogical.

Plausibility always comes before acceptance. 

The best part about using the plausibility test (and doing the work required by it) is that the less you know, the less you will see as plausible. As a result, you will research more, and can learn more.

The plausibility test is useful in all kinds of situations. From differentiating between honest and biased news stories in the media (and social media), to making sure that we don’t get suckered into marketing hype and buying snake oil-type products or avoid getting taken advantage of by so-called “experts” (construction contractors and mechanics come to mind), the plausibility test is an excellent tool to help us become informed, responsible, and empowered citizens in a society that is becoming more manipulative, complex, and intimidating by the hour.

So don’t just take my word on this test or the benefits that are possible with it; ask yourself: “are they plausible?”

Reaction: Quebec Election 2012

The election is over and I have one word. Phew.

The result is bad, but it could have been much worse. The Parti Quebecois spent 34 days placating their hate-filled base. Their anti-English, anti-immigrant, anti-any-religion-but-Christianity proposals, decades-old complaints and destructive policies scared the hell out of me. Their promises to cause trouble for Canadian unity by picking fights with the federal government in order to create resentment in Quebec and ultimately increase chances for a successful vote for separation is a disgusting tactic that does not befit a part of, arguably, the most welcoming, multicultural country in the world. It should be a mark of shame for anyone who supports it, but these backwards people wear their intolerance openly, like a badge of honour.

The final results of the election are: (125 total seats, 63 required for majority)
– Parti quebecois: 54 seats, 1,393,540 votes, 31.94% of the popular vote.
– Quebec Liberal Party: 50 seats, 1,361,618 votes, 31.21% of the vote. (about 32,000 votes less)
– Coalition avenir du Quebec: 19 seats, 1,180,758 votes, 27.06% of the vote.
– Quebec solidaire: 2 seats, 263,233 votes, 6.03%

This is not a mandate for any drastic change, and certainly not for a referendum. Will that stop the Parti quebecois from promoting sovereignty? Likely not. For a party that pretended to understand the importance of “listening to the people” during the student conflict, I wager that they will show that their hypocrisy is alive and well in the coming days, when they name their Referendum Minister. With less than 38% of the vote for parties supporting sovereignty and over 58% for parties who campaigned on staying within Canada, moving past tired, old complaints, and focusing on the real issues facing Quebec, like health care, the economy, corruption, and more, we will see clearly that some parties don’t listen, or selectively listen.

During the PQ leader’s victory speech, a man fired shots, seemingly from backstage at the venue. The exact motive is unknown, but theories abound, and they all sound eerily like an assassination attempt. As much as I am against violence, this situation is peculiar for me and has raised certain interesting points to consider. Specifically, the realization that there are a fair number of people in Quebec who would definitely try to kill anyone who promoted views they didn’t agree with and/or considered threatening, like the abolition of Bill 101, if that person looked like they were gaining support. This is not a Quebec issue – this is a world issue. Violence gets more results than debate, and that’s scary.

In today’s La Presse, Stéphane Laporte wrote the following article entitled “Le Québec est en deuil”:

Surtout, que ce geste de folie ne provoque pas encore plus de haine et d’accusations.
Qu’il ne nous divise pas.
C’est le temps d’être au-dessus de toutes les partisaneries.
Cette nuit, il n’y a pas de péquistes, de libéraux, de caquistes…
Pas de séparatistes, pas de fédéralistes.
Il n’y a que des Québécois blessés, choqués, perdus.
Francophones et anglophones, nous parlons tous la même langue.
Celle du silence.
Celle du coeur triste.
Celle du coeur en deuil.
Donnons-nous du réconfort.
Montrons-nous qu’il y a encore de l’espoir.
Apprendre à vivre ensemble est le plus grand défi des humains.
Qu’ils soient américains, russes, chinois, juifs, arabes, syriens ou québécois.
Faisons de notre sens collectif, de notre souci des autres, notre priorité.
Bonne nuit, malgré tout.
Je ne dormirai pas.
Vous non plus.

I offer my honest response, in true Mark Unleashed fashion. I know that others are thinking similar thoughts, as there has already been a backlash, but this needs to be said. I just ask that my comments be taken as a whole, not picked apart to distort or pervert the message.

Tellement beau, ce texte. Malheureusement, cette campagne électorale m’a tellement blessé que je ne sens plus de bienvenue dans la province de ma naissance à cause de ma langue maternelle. La division causée par la personne qui deviendra premier ministre est tellement loins d’être premier-ministériel. Je suis en deuil pour la personne innocente qui est morte. Mais je ne réussi pas à me placer, comme demande l’auteur, “au-dessus de toutes les partisaneries”. Après 34 jours de xénophobie, de division, et d’intolérance de la part du parti québécois et de son chef, je me tiens fortement contre leurs propos haineux et anti-démocratiques, et, conséquemment, contre tous qui appuient ce parti. Si nous, québécois, sommes tous blessés, c’est à cause non seulement de l’attentat d’hier soir, mais aussi à cause des discours qui l’avaient certainement provoqué.

Your thoughts?

Translations (for those who do not understand French)

Stephane Laporte’s piece:

Title: Quebec is in mourning.

Most important that this gesture of madness not cause more hatred and accusations.
Let it not divide us.
It is time to be above all partisanship.
Tonight, there are no PQ, Liberals, CAQists
No separatists, no federalists
There are only injured Quebecers, angered, lost.
Francophones and Anglophones, we all speak the same language.
One of silence.
One of a sad heart.
One of a grieving heart.
Let us be comforted.
Let us show that there is still hope.
Learning to live together is the greatest human challenge.
That they be American, Russian, Chinese, Jews, Arabs, Syrians or Quebecers.
Let us make our commun interests, our concern for others, our priority.
Good night, despite it all.
I will not sleep.
Neither will you.

My reaction:

So beautiful. Unfortunately, this campaign hurt me so badly that I no longer feel welcome in the province of my birth because of my mother tongue. The division caused by the person who will become Premier is so far from befitting a provincial leader. I am in mourning for the innocent person who died. But I did not manage to place myself as the author asks, “above all partisanship.” After 34 days of xenophobia, division and intolerance from the Parti quebecois and its leader, I stand firmly against their hateful and anti-democratic rhetoric, and, consequently, against all who support this party. If we Québécois are all injured, it is not only because of last night’s attack, but also because of the comments that certainly provoked it.

Quebec’s Criminal Students

Last night, a video was brought to my attention that shows a Concordia University classroom taken over by students on “strike.” (And this is not the only one!)

(“Strike” is in quotations because student associations, as the corporations that they are, do not have that legal right, but that’s a topic for another day.)

This is a clear case of people substituting their view of what is right for the view of others. Some students believe that the proposed tuition hikes in Quebec (that will become law in just a few days) merit going on “strike” and not going to the classes that they paid for. They believe that it is smarter, wiser, and more mature to skip these classes, thereby not getting credit for them, and then taking them again in a future year where the cost for the same class will be higher. If this doesn’t make sense to you, you’re not alone. This completely illogical, childish decision is reason enough that this juveniles should get their asses back to class and get their learn on.

That I disagree with the strike action, despite my logical backing, does not make me right. Students have the right to not attend their own classes, even if they paid for them, if that is their wish. However, as a great quote rightly notes, “one person’s freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins.” These students do not have the right to prevent others from going to class, learning, and getting value for what they paid for.

So, what should be done about instances like the one shown in the video? Well, these kids (a term I believe appropriate given their behaviour) believe that it’s okay to shock and be loud to make a statement. I think we should shock them, loudly, to make a statement of our own. I propose that the police be called in to arrest each person who participates in preventing a fellow student from learning in a classroom. Arrest them, you ask? What law did they break?

A simple reading of the Criminal Code of Canada shows a clear violation of the theft statute. Have a read:

322. (1) Every one commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, […] anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent

(a) to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it, or a person who has a special property or interest in it, of the thing or of his property or interest in it;

By barging into a classroom in session and preventing fellow students from participating in classes they paid for, not only are these demonstrators guilty of extreme selfishness and horribly bad judgement, the above statute clearly shows that they are guilty of theft, as they are depriving, even temporarily, the owner of the right to an education of their interest in that education.

So come on, Montreal Police and Crown Prosecutors, you have arrested people on crazy, creative charges in the past, the difference this time is that the law actually supports you here. So use the clear video evidence, identify the education-thieving perpetrators and arrest them immediately so that the smarter, more mature students can get what they paid for and what we as society need them to have, an education.

Real world lessons for students

On Thursday, November 10th in downtown Montreal, thousands of loud students marched the streets blocking rush hour traffic in protest against proposed $325 tuition hikes for the next 5 years, despite the fact that currently, Quebec is home to the lowest tuition fees in North America (by far), and will remain close to the bottom even after the hikes.

The protesters had their say today. Now I get mine.

Dear student protestors: Your hypocrisy disgusts me. You pretend that tuition hikes will “prevent access to education” and then form picket lines at your school to prevent your fellow students from having access to their education.

Worse, if your education means as much to you as you claim, why did you skip school today?

If my employer had not made other plans for me, I had planned on being at the protest carrying a sign that would have simply said : Tuition before iPhones, beer and cigarettes. Student protesters, your misplaced priorities disgust me. If you can afford a smartphone (and its monthly plans); if you go out drinking at least twice a month; if you buy a coffee every day; if you are a smoker (!!!), if you have gone away for Spring Break – anywhere – then you can afford tuition. Tuition first, then luxuries. Smarten up!

If you want a free ride, earn it through hard work and get a scholarship. Do not expect the public to continue paying your way to the detriment of our education system. I didn’t take university as seriously as I might have, but at least I didn’t expect you to pay for my bad habits. If you want to be a hypocrite, have your priorities backwards, or act like an entitled, spoiled brat, do it on your own dime.

Stop the drama and get back to class. It’s time to pay your fair share. This is the real world. You would be wise to start preparing for it.

Creative deception

In Saturday’s Montreal Gazette Letters to the Editor section, Scholastica Rajaratnam condemns those who oppose breastfeeding in public by claiming that they “believe an infant should be hidden before he’s allowed to eat.” Really? It seems that their argument is more about what they consider to be inappropriate public nudity.

In talking about the kirpan-wearing Sikhs who were denied entrance to the National Assembly, Elizabeth Irving-Waddleton claims that “all were turned away because they were “different.”” No, they were turned away because they insisted on entering a building with what security deemed to be a potential weapon, despite being offered the option of checking their kirpans.

It is one thing to exaggerate the meaning of something to attempt to prove a point. I just hope that these letter writers (and subsequently, readers) don’t actually believe that the above creative interpretations reflect what actually happened in these stories.

Let us raise the level of discourse by talking about the actual issues surrounding controversial decisions, not by sensationalizing them with emotional rhetoric.