Yves Michaud's letter to the Canadian Jewish Congress

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This is an unofficial translation of a letter sent to the Canadian Jewish Congress by Yves Michaud, a citizen who was publicly defamed and labelled an Anti-Semite by adversaries of the Quebec nationalist movement. The controversy in which he was involved ultimately lead to the resignation of Parti Québécois Premier of Québec Lucien Bouchard in 1996. Read the original French language letter here.

Yves Michaud, journalist, member of the National Assembly, writer

To whom it may concern,

1 - Would you have the kindness to forward me your address so that I may send you a copy of my book and the remarks which I made before the Commission of the Estates General of the French language? That way, you will be in a better position to voice your opinion with intelligence and good faith on the true nature of my remarks, including my admiring and unconditional praise on the Jewish people in which I encouraged the French Canadian people to follow their "rough will to survive, their invincible spirit of solidarity and their moral armour adding that in a way the Christians and the Jews were spiritually Semites".

2 - I am, along with twelve other Quebecers, or Canadians if you prefer, a founding member of the Ligue des droits de l'homme (Human Rights League), in 1962, in company of Pierre-Elliott Trudeau, and Jacques Hébert, the former Liberal senator. I was last year president of the Léo Cormier Foundation for the defence of rights and freedoms. I am the godfather of a Jewish boy, my wife is godmother of a Jewish girl, I lived for 37 years in a Jewish district of Montreal in perfect harmony, friendship and conviviality with my neighbours for whom I feel the highest regard. Few old-stock Quebec families can claim such a resume. By searching a little, one could surely find a better profile for anti-semitism!!! I know that you did not pronounce the word of "antisémite" when referring to me, but the text of your correspondence with professor Hilton of Concordia University suggests that I have or I could have had a background of this nature.

3 - Your knowledge of the Quebec public life seems to be imperfect. The B'Nai Brith regional office for Quebec, headed by Mr. Robert Libman, suggested that the Lionel-Groulx Metro station in Montreal be unbaptized and that the name of it should be that of a former Prime Minister of Israel. Groulx was the headlight and the intellectual guide of two generations of French Canadians, who have become Quebecers. This proposal was and still is perceived as a supreme insult and a blow to the memory of a venerated person in the history of Quebec. To dare such thing, in my eyes and those of a number of my compatriots, is an extremism getting close to anti-Quebec racism. I do not know, unless I am wrong, that your organization has denounced this insult to our memory.

The very same day that my intention to be candidate for nomination in the Mercier riding became public, the same B'Nai Brith regional office for Quebec directed by Robert Libman called me a "dinosaur" and invited the Premier of Quebec to invalidate my candidature in virtue of his position as president of the Parti québécois. As if the B'Nai Brith had assumed the power to designate the candidates for nomination of a political party when its director is a ferocious and keen adversary of the said party. You'll admit that, in terms of "having the nerve to", it would be difficult to do better! Mr. Libman, moreover, is a "partitionist" Zealot, i.e. a proponent of the cutting-up of the Quebec territory if the majority of its people voted "yes" to sovereignty in a forthcoming referendum. Wrongly or rightly so, this stance is interpreted by several Quebecers as a call to confrontation which could take the form of a kind of civil war, although the débonnaire pacifism of Quebecers is hardly inclined to this kind of activity. It even happens sometimes that this people pushes the tolerance as far as to ask forgiveness to those who insult them!

4 - For more than two centuries, the generosity of the Quebec people (an "ethnic group", - if the word is not sacrilege - that not only founded Quebec but also Canada) has had no limit toward all the citizens who live on its territory, without concern for their confession, colour and origins. That being said, it has indeed happened in the past, on its territory and in that of Canada, that certain forms of ostracism be applied against the nationals of Jewish confession, in particular the refusal to admit them in universities and select clubs, but that was the fact of the English-Canadian "ethnic group". I imagine that in this respect your files are an inexhaustible source of consultation and information.

To conclude, there never was and there never will be in Quebec a "Jewish Question", except coming from politicians who have bad intentions, who use the extremely comprehensible sensitivity of your people, for suspicious and unfair ends. You would oblige me by taking note of what preceded and in ensuring the communication of it to your co-religionists, with the expression of my distinguished feelings.

Yves Michaud
Montréal, February 1st, 2001