Q&A

A cooling firebrand singes the referendum

April 14 1980
Q&A

A cooling firebrand singes the referendum

April 14 1980

A cooling firebrand singes the referendum

Q&A

A year after the October Crisis of 1970,

FLQ theorist Pierre Vallières stunned both separatists and federalists in Quebec by rejecting terrorism and endorsing the fledgling Parti Québécois and its parliamentary road to independence. Since then he has withdrawn from active political life, emerging only to launch his books, which have progressively moved beyond Quebec’s incestuous politics to theories of a technocratic, supranational world government. Despite his distance from Quebec politics his opinions remain influential, and his best-known work, White Niggers of America, subtitled The Precocious Autobiography of a Quebec ‘Terrorist’, has sold well in six languages. Last month, Vallières brought 10 years of personal observations about Quebec to a public conclusion. He urges those still interested in “real independence”to spoil their referendum ballots. The English translation of his 1977 book, The Impossible Quebec, released this month, begins to explain why. Montreal writers Larry Black and Daniel Boyer interviewed Vallières for Maclean’s.

Maclean’s: A decade ago, you were saying the Parti Québécois was the legitimate heir to the Quebec independence movement of the 1960s, and telling those interested in “changing the world” that that was where they belonged. What has happened to the PQ—or to your concept of independence—since then to change your mind?

Vallières: I just can’t accept a narrow conservative nationalism, a selfish one that doesn’t recognize the changes go-

‘L'evesque has always had a contempt for Quebeckers’

ing on elsewhere—in the Third World, in the fight for the equality of women, in the ecology movement. Independence has to be genuinely liberating, and when I decided to endorse the PQ back then, it was a young party, still in its formative stages. There was plenty of discussion and debate. Most of its members were souverainistes, people who believed that if you voted for an independence party, it was because you wanted this sort of independence. The “associationistes,” if you like, only came in 1974 or ’75, reviving all those strange, contradictory and uniquely Québécois concepts like “quiet revolution,” “sovereignty-association,” and a referendum on a mandate to begin negotiations for sovereignty-association. I still have to meet a foreigner who understands what the hell is going on here. When I joined the PQ some members freaked out—a couple of hundred resigned. But in those days, even Lévesque wasn’t afraid to say one new progressive member was worth the loss of four old conservatives. But it wasn’t long before he began changing. I remember in 1972 (when Quebec unions went out on a general strike), Lévesque publicly condemned the walkout. The party executive over-

turned his decision, but he went right over everyone’s heads.

Maclean’s: Has Lévesque been a big factor in your dissatisfaction with the PQ? Vallières: Lévesque has always had a certain contempt for Quebeckers, and his government reflects that. Whenever he has an important announcement to make, he doesn’t address them directly, he goes to Wall Street. He’s scared of telling it like it is here. And since the election [in 1976], the PQ leadership has practically purged its grassroots organizers. Anyone who doesn’t think like them, they call communist. I’d guess that three out of every four active members have left. Now the party’s own internal polls show they’re only going to keep two ridings in the next provincial election. But there is no panic, just an overwhelming defeatism among party members. The only thing they want to hear about these days is the referendum. I almost think they want to lose it.

Maclean’s: But aren't you part ofthat defeatist mood, telling Quebeckers to spoil their referendum ballots?

Vallières: No, for me it’s a matter of personal conscience. I can’t vote on a meaningless question. I don’t know if there will be a huge movement behind spoiling ballots—you know, it’s not really in the tradition of Quebeckers to abstain, let alone go all the way to the polling booth and then not choose one way or the other. The majority of indépendantistes have rallied to the “yes” camp by default. I simply can’t do that, just because Ryan is on the other side. Ryan, like Trudeau, is an incredibly brutal man. Anything or anyone that gets in his way, he crushes.

Maclean’s: Where does that leave Quebec the day after the referendum? Vallières: Well, I foresee the defeat of the PQ in the referendum, a complete sweep by Ryan’s liberals in the election that follows, and then the total disintegration of the PQ.

Maclean’s: In your books, you've often said Canadian politics have been strongly influenced by the Trilateral Commission, a discreet multinational grouping of world-ranking corporate and political figures. Since Claude Ryan was closely associated with the commission, do you think it had some secret hand in his entry into the political scene?

Vallières: No, I wouldn’t go that far. But the Trilateral certainly had a hand in the Pepin-Robarts Report. Jean-Luc Pepin himself was a Trilateral vice-president, and the report reflects a lot of things this group believes. Multinationals don’t have an interest in too strong a central government. They prefer to deal directly with provincial governments, which sit on the natural resources they’re after. I think Canada is a coun-

7 foresee the total disintegration of the PQ’

try doomed to annexation by the United States—in fact, you could say it has already happened. What more could they annex?

Maclean’s: Would an “independent" Quebec fare any better?

Vallières: No, certainly not. In the Parti Québécois, a pro-U.S. trend took over

after they got trounced in the 1973 election, and it was around then that the étapiste (step-by-step) strategy toward the party’s goals became popular. They dropped a pledge to withdraw Quebec from NATO and NORAD, a promise that used to make the hair of even the most sympathetic American journalists stand on end when I’d bring it up. Just what kind of independence do you think we’d get by simply transferring our allegiances from Toronto to New York? For me, independence should bring about a real change. Why bother with independence unless it alters the way we live, the way we relate to each other? An independent Quebec—if indeed that’s still possible—should support real change: the redistribution of the world’s resources, ecology and the rights of women. It should also move to abolish the state, the police and the army.

Maclean’s: That last phrase sounds like the kind ofthing the FLQ was preaching in the 1960s.

Vallières: No, not really. Quebeckers today turn to the state—the government and all its trappings—in much the same way they turned to the church 100 years ago. Just look at the figures. When more than 50 per cent of the provincial budget goes to the civil service, something is wrong. It’s only in Africa that you find that sort of thing. And how can people put up with a police force that manipulated events in Quebec the way it did in 1970? You know, I never knew the Rose brothers [Paul and Jacques, convicted in the 1979 kidnapping of Quebec Labor Minister Pierre Laporte] or anything about the kidnapping at the time, but it is clear now that police informers and agents provocateurs used the FLQ. It wasn’t logical—everything the FLQ did played into the hands of the police.

Maclean’s: So you support the theory that says the kidnappings were engineered by Ottawa as an excuse to bring in the troops, and so to defuse and discredit the nationalist movement? Vallières: I don’t doubt Ottawa masterminded the whole thing. All three people involved in producing one FLQ communiqué—the person providing the stationery, the person writing it and the person delivering it—all turned out to be police infiltrators. La Crise d ’octobre took the wind out of any plans [thenpremier Robert] Bourassa might have had to return to [former Union Nationale premier Daniel] Johnson’s strategy of squeezing concessions from Ottawa by threatening independence. For six years after the events Quebec had no real government. There’s nothing we could have done to stop this from happening, short of scuttling the FLQ and preventing anyone from using its symbol.