2011: Volume 4, Issue 1, pp. 145-162

The Disquieting Revolution: 
A Genealogy of Reason and Racism in the Québec Press

Alan Wong



Within the past decade, a series of contentious events concerning the accommodation of different cultural and religious traditions and practices in Quebec has incited much debate in this region. Labelled the “reasonable accommodation” issue by the local press, this controversy, which has its roots in neo-nationalist sentiments born of the Quiet Revolution, has incited responses ranging from denunciations of racist discrimination to calls for more stringent measures to ensure the assimilation of non-Westerners into Québécois culture. As Monika Kin Gagnon points out, this concept has moved beyond its legal origins to become a “social discourse” in the culture at-large, in that many in Quebec are vocally expressing their anxieties over the idea that the rights of newcomers has reached a tipping point, whereby the limits of reason are now over-stretched, weakening the dominant population’s values and identity. Much of this fear was stoked by certain stakeholders in the 2007 Quebec election, namely politicians and media outlets, when reasonable accommodation was highlighted as a major issue. This paper provides an analysis of that election and the campaigns leading into it, revealing how the press and the leaders of the three major political parties were complicit in transforming some negligible and private incidents into a greater menace endangering the very existence of Quebec society. By tracing the genealogy of “the reasonable Québécois”, I will demonstrate how reason and racism became intertwined during the course of this debate over rights, identity, and citizenship in Quebec.



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