An article in Saturday's Globe and Mail contained a startling and offensive suggestion. Writing of the aftermath of last week's Dawson College shooting, reporter Jan Wong argued that the three shootings that occurred in Montreal colleges and universities since 1989 find their source in the marginalization of anglophones and immigrants caused by Quebec's "infamous language law."
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But the privilege of a pulpit as prestigious as The Globe and Mail carries responsibilities. One should, at the very least, explain how her opinion was arrived at, what facts it was based on. Yet, no basis for the speculation was offered. In each of the Polytechnique, Concordia and Dawson shootings, Ms. Wong observed, "the perpetrator was not pure laine" and "all of them had been marginalized in a society that valued pure laine."
Marc Lépine, the 1989 École Polytechnique killer, was the son of an Algerian immigrant and a French-Canadian mother. In an explicit letter, and to his victims just before he shot them, he explained his horrific act by his hatred of feminists. No mention whatsoever of language or race issues. All his 14 victims were women.
Valery Fabrikant, who shot four colleagues at Concordia University in 1992, was so marginalized by Québec's Bill 101 that he worked . . . in one of Québec's three English language universities! His four victims were from anglo or immigrant backgrounds. What a strange way to express his supposed anger against the pure laine. As for the Dawson College killer, Kimveer Gill did not write a word about linguistic issues on his blog, studied all his life in English schools and went on to express his frustration . . . in an English language college against young people studying in English.
One can obviously disagree with Bill 101. However, the suggestion that it was somehow to blame for murders committed by obviously deranged men is irresponsible. How does Jan Wong explain the 1999 Taber shooting in Alberta? The series of recent handgun murders in Toronto? Or the numerous similar incidents in the United States? Were the shooters of the Columbine high school in 1999 angry at René Lévesque? Maybe documentary maker Michael Moore missed something.
"What many outsiders don't realize is how alienating the decades-long linguistic struggle has been in the once-cosmopolitan city [of Montreal]" she writes. It seems to me that Ms. Wong, although herself a Montrealer, is the outsider here. What is left of Quebec's language legislation has been approved, and the case of commercial signs even proposed, by Canada's Supreme Court. And Montreal, like all Canadian cities, is more cosmopolitan today than it has ever been.
The linguistic struggle Ms. Wong mentions has long been over. The proof is in the huge wave of sympathy expressed by Quebeckers of all origins after the shootings. It is also in the fact that all Dawson College students interviewed by the media after the tragedy spoke fluent French.
What concerns me the most about Ms. Wong's unchecked suggestion is that it may serve to perpetuate prejudices. While letters from Globe readers criticizing the Wong argument give me heart, separatists in Quebec already have started to use the article to bolster their case, deploring the insulting perception of Quebec society held by English Canadians. When such a suggestion as Jan Wong's appears in print, federalists like myself are hard put to contradict them.
André Pratte is editorial pages editor of La Presse.