Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Duceppe Code

Duceppe declares witch hunt in St Bruno-St Hubert

Where's Sir Leigh Teabing when you need him?

Gilles Duceppe raised the alarm about a Conservative candidate in St Bruno-St Hubert, after La Presse of Montreal revealed that Nicole Charbonneau Barron is a member of Opus Dei.

Described by many as an ultra-Conservative Catholic Order, Opus Dei was portrayed -- and villainized -- in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. Ever since the publication of the book, and especially since the release of the movie, Opus Dei has effectively become the Catholic Church's answer to Scientology -- villainized by those who despise it and defended ardently by its adherents. A fierce propaganda war has been waged between its opponents and proponents to the point where truth is entirely indistinguishable from spin.

As justification for his envokation of the controversial order, Duceppe claimed that Opus Dei's teachings "do not correspond to Quebec's modern mentality."

"Those people are certainly sharing a kind of ideology that doesn't correspond at all to modern times in Quebec," he announced. "I'm not saying they don't have the right to do so. [But] those people are against a lot of things that are allowed in Quebec."

Of course the right of Barron to hold her religious beliefs didn't dissuade Duceppe from steering his party's election campaign toward base religious intolerance. The general expectation in Canada is that political candidates will be judged not by their gender, ethnicity or religion, but by their policy platform -- or at the very least that of their party.

With his move today, Duceppe has turned away from criticizing the policy platform of the Conservatives and toward encouraging bigotry.

One wonders if perhaps there's some reason why Duceppe so desperately wants to debate something other than policy in this election campaign. With the BQ's provincial counterpart, the Parti Quebecois, reduced to a shambles of its former separatist glory and his own party's share of the popular vote precipitously dropping throughout a recent round of by-elections, Duceppe may be coming face to face with the reality that separatism has been rendered a spent force in Quebec -- currently capable of offering little more than empty promises and shameless fear mongering.

No wise man should rule out a future reenergizing of Quebec's sovereigntist movement -- Pierre Trudeau learned that the hard way. But at least in the present, and for the near future, Gilles Duceppe needs something to campaign on other than rendering Canada unto the ash heap of history.

Apparently, the spectre of religious bogeymen is the Holy Grail that Duceppe thinks will secure his party against a potential drubbing at the hands of a seemingly resurgent Conservative party in Quebec. Which just so happens to say a lot more about the BQ and its leader than it does about Nicole Charbonneau Barron.

However, Duceppe may actually be taking even a bigger risk than simply appearing bigoted. If conservatism in Quebec truly is as resurgent as recent polls have suggested it may be, Duceppe may have a lot to lose by taking aim at its traditional handmaiden in Quebec, the Catholic Church.

Few politicians have gotten ahead in Quebec by directly attacking the Church, and given the direct historical links between Catholicism and the embers of nationalist sentiment his party has always sought to fan into separatist flame, Dion may find himself getting burned by the fire he's choosing to play with.

Or, Duceppe could just call up Dr Robert Langdon for a good-old-fashioned Grail quest -- that is, if he wasn't a fictional character.

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