(eng) A Look At The Catholic Far-Right In Quebec

Arm The Spirit (ats@etext.org)
Sat, 25 May 1996 12:47:21 +0200


A Look At The Catholic Far Right In Quebec

By Cede Elle

Many people think of the Church as a relic of the past, a
worn out and old-fashioned institution catering to a small and
irrelevent clientele. Yet as this year's mobilisation against
Human Life International taught us, Roman Catholicism's militant
right-wing is still an important proponent of racism, sexism and
homophobia around the world.
The day after thousands of us gathered to demonstrate
against HLI - and to play cat and mouse with Montreal's riot cops
- I had a chance to slip into the Radisson Hotel where the
right-wing group was meeting. Acting like the good Christian that
my grandmother hopes I am, I walked around their literature hall
looking at the different stuff on sale. Among the plastic
foetuses, the rosaries and the brochures for various Catholic
universities were all of the homophobic, misogynist and racist
materials you would expect at such a conference.
At one stall I chatted with John Cotter, a longtime friend
of the Canadian fascist movement and owner of The Angelus Books
of Barrie, Ontario. Cotter proudly showed me his books from the
right-wing American John Birch Society, and I bought several
publications from Action Familiale et Scolaire, a
Catholic-fascist group based in France. In these books I read
about how Moslems should be expelled from France, how Judaism is
really synonymous with Freemasonry, which in turn is the Catholic
Church's worst enemy, and about how there is an international
conspiracy to invent historical crimes against Native peoples in
Latin America in order to blame Spain and the Catholic Church!
It is true that Christianity is so right-wing as to be
actually fascist in nature in not very common in Quebec. While
the Church was a major locus of power when this province was at
one time ruled on behalf of Anglo-Canadian big business by the
ultraconservative Union Nationale, all of that changed with the
Revolution Tranquille. As Maurice Duplessis was laid to rest and
Catholicism liberalized itself under the aegis of Vatican II, a
French Canadian business class in conjunction with a righteous
Quebecois nationalist movement saw to it that Quebec entered
modern, "democratic" civilization. As the Parti Quebecois and the
Quebec Liberal Party competed as to who could modernize society
the fastest, the old right and Catholic conservatism practically
disappeared, transforming Quebec from the bastion of Catholicism
in North America to the most secular province in relatively
secular Canada. This is why, when Human Life International came
to town, they attracted so little local support and Father Paul
Marx was left complaining about how "Quebec has lost its Catholic
soul."
Yet HLI does have some local support, and just as the
far-right around the world is on the offensive, our local
Catholic fascists are also on the move. While they remain
numerically insignificant, they have been able to tap into a
reservoir of conservatism left dormant in Quebec society by the
Revolution Tranquille, and have used their religious credentials
to gain access to positions of power in the Montreal Catholic
School Commission, this city's most important school board.

Introducing Quebec's Catholic Fascists

Two magazines distributed by John Cotter's Angelus Bookstore
come from Montreal: Cahiers de Jeune Nation, a fascist journal
published by the Cercle Jeune Nation, and Confidentiel, a journal
about international conspiracies published by Gilbert Gendron, a
former employee of the South African consulate and a founding
member of Jeune Nation.
The Cercle Jeune Nation was founded in 1986 by Gilbert
Gendron, Francois Dumas and Rock Tousignant. These
pseudo-intellectuals and their friends seek to construct a French
Canadian fascist ideology. While the group is fervently Catholic
and nationalistic, it sees little to praise in either
contemporary Catholicism or today's Quebecois nationalist
movement. While the Church is regarded as being too "soft" and
tolerant most of today's nationalists are seen as having
abandoned the cornerstones of a "true" French Canadian identity:
race and religion. Rejecting grassroots struggle, CJN members
take pride in their elitism and limit themselves to theorizing
and trying to influence organizations through infiltration. For
example, at one point it tried take over the Societe Saint Jean
Baptiste, but its members were expelled. (This expulsion was not
easily decided upon, though, and several SSJB board members voted
against it. One of these, Francois Albert-Angers, has repeatedly
seen fit to write for the CJN's journal.)
The CJN has also attracted the support of certain right-wing
academics: in 1993 there was a brief controversy when it was
revealed the Universite of Montreal History professor Pierre
Trepannier had written a tribute to fascism for the Cahiers de
Jeune Nation. More recently, in 1994 Dimitri Kitsikis, a history
Professor at the University of Ottawa, had two articles published
by Cercle. One of these articles, "Pour une etude scientifique du
fascisme", went so far as to include a political platform which
Kitsikis proposed all fascist organisations adopt.
Cercle Jeune Nation has worked with other racist groups such
as SOS Genocide and the Mouvement pour une immigration restreinte
et francophone. CJN member Gilbert Gendron has even written two
booklets for the Toronto-based Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform,
an important fascist group with important ties to several of
English Canada's nastier anti-French organizations! The Cahiers
de Jeune Nation has also reprinted articles from European fascist
journals, notably Spearhead, the organ of the England's National
Front.
Yet the group with which the CJN has worked most closely
over the past ten years is the Ralliement Provincial des Parents
de Quebec, based in Sherbrooke. This group was formed in 1979,
and acts primarily as a voice for ultraright-wing Catholics
concerned about the secularization of Quebec society, most
especially its schools. Since 1987 the RPPQ has published a
bimonthly newspaper called Nation Nouvelle. While Jeune Nation
members have written for this rag, most of the articles are
written by the RPPQ's main man Achille Larouche and other
right-wing Catholics perhaps a little less eager to publicly
declare themselves fascists. Edmond Robillard, a priest who lives
in Outremont, has written articles in almost every issue of
Nation Nouvelle.
The RPPQ is less critical of the Vatican than the Cercle
Jeune Nation. The group's ideology is clearly spelled across the
first page of last December's Nation Nouvelle: "Nous ne voulons
pas d'un etat athee immoral favorisant une immigration
d'extinction." Further proof of the RPPQ's fascist sympathies
include articles praising Field Marshal Petain, the leader of
Vichy France who cooperated fully with Hitler's Nazis in the
Second World War, and General Franco, who on behalf of the
Catholic Church and Spanish fascists crushed the Spanish
Revolution.
The RPPQ has organized public assemblies, rallies and
marches in defense of traditional Catholicism. In the brief it
submitted to the Quebec Commission on Sovereignty, the group laid
out its 12-point proposal for a sovereign Quebec: a Constitution
based on the Ten Commandments and the "rights of God", no more
abortion, incentives for women to have as many children as
possible, a halt to the "inassimilable" immigration of Moslems
and other non-Christians, referred to as an "invasion".
What differentiates the Catholic from other forms of fascism
is its commitment to tradition and reliance on bizarre conspiracy
theories involving Freemasons. Most issues of Nation Nouvelle
include references to such "Freemason conspiracies". It must be
understood that while these racists talk about "Freemasons", what
they really mean is Jews. This is admitted by French fascist
Arnaud de Lassus, a friend of the RPPQ's, in the chapter
"Freemasonry and Judaism" of his book "The Elementary Knowledge
of Freemasonry". Since 1988 Jeune Nation and the RPPQ have
organized several tours of M. de Lassus in Quebec.

The Centre D'Information Nationale

In 1990, following the defeat of Brian Mulroney's Meech Lake
Accord which the RPPQ had hoped would free Quebec from the
Canadian Charter of Rights, several Catholic fascists came
together to form the "Centre d'information nationale", later
known as the "Centre d'information nationale Robert Rumilly".
This group intended to safeguard what the far-right views as
Quebec's identity by building a "mouvement de droite chretienne"
and doing battle with "integrisme laique." In an official CIN
document it is explained that "one's identity includes religion,
ethnicity and language."
The original membership of the CIN included Rock Tousignant,
at the time a member of Jeune Nation, and Edmond Robillard and
Achille Larouche of the RPPQ, as well as a half dozen other
right-wingers. Of note among the group's original membership was
Gilles Grondin, the president of Campagne Quebec Vie, the
provincial affiliate of the Campaign Life Coalition, Canada's
major anti-abortion organization.
The membership of Quebec's chief anti-abortion crusader in a
fascist organisation like the CIN is predictable. All across
North America fascists have joined forces with anti-abortionists;
both fear women's control over their bodies and view
decriminalized abortion as part of the liberalization of sexual
mores as well as a demographic threat to the "nation" and "race".
Across Canada anti-abortionists have been linked to neo-nazi
groups like the Heritage Front, the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations,
etc.
If Campagne Quebec Vie's political proclivities are
unexceptional, this is not to say that Grondin's far-right
associations are without importance. It is certainly no accident
that Vitalite, CQV's monthly newspaper, has advertised
conferences of the CIN and Jeune Nation where fascists like
Arnaud de Lassus and Pierre Trepannier expounded on their
worldview. The pages of Vitalite have purported to "expose"
conspiracies of Freemasons, one-worlders and others bent on
destroying Christian civilization. CQV presented a brief to the
PQ's Commission on the Future of Quebec (Commission dur l'avenir
du Quebec) arguing that there was a worldwide conspiracy that was
using abortion to destroy traditional Quebec society by reducing
the birthrate of francophones and allowing too many immigrants to
enter. More recently Edmond Robillard, the priest who works so
closely with the RPPQ and the CIN, has become one of Vitalite's
assistant editors.
But the most startling thing about Quebec's Catholic
fascists is not their proximity to our local anti-abortion
zealots. Like I said, there's nothing unusual there. What is
unusual is the degree of power that these fascists wield within
the school system, most notably in the Regroupement Scolaire
Confessionel.

The Regoupement Scolaire Confessionel

"Regroupement Scolaire Confessionel" is the name that
candidates supported by the Mouvement Scolaire Confessionel give
themselves come the school board elections. Ultraconservatives
united under this banner have held power in the Montreal Catholic
School Commission - this city's most important school board - for
over ten years. The RSC's political success, guaranteed by a low
voter turnout for school board elections, is responsible for the
fact that despite overwhelming public opinion in favour of a
secular education system Montreal's schools remains religious.
The RSC has repeatedly dabbled in xenophobia and racism during
its reign. For instance, in 1988, it fired a Chilean-born
employee because of his Spanish accent. The next year, it sent
parents a questionnaire that asked whether immigrant children
should be forced to go to separate schools. In 1990 its chairman,
Michel Pallascio, suggested to the provincial government that it
favour immigrants with "Judeo-Christian values", and its board
considered a proposal to punish youth and children who spoke
languages other than French on school grounds.
The RSC is intimately tied to the Catholic Right. The
organization that chooses which candidates may run under the
banner of the RSC, the Mouvement Scolaire Confessionel, was
itself founded by the Association des Parents Catholiques du
Quebec in 1970 and remains a project of this group. It is the
APCQ that recently made the news by calling for two sex education
books to be banned from high schools because they were deemed
"practically pornographic." More generally, according to Isabelle
Pallascio (the group's vice-president), the association not only
opposes any talk of parents or students being allowed to vote on
whether a school should be Catholic or secular, but even regrets
the fact that students are offered a choice between Religion and
Morals classes! Both the APCQ and the MSC are housed on the
fourth floor of 7400 St-Laurent; an adjacent dining area includes
several display cases full of right-wing literature: materials
from Campagne Quebec Vie, booklets in defense of private schools,
and loads of leaflets from Human Life International!
While the MSC is a project of the APCQ, it should be noted
that once candidates it supports are elected to the school board
they may act independantly of these organizations; nevertheless,
seeing as the MSC's support is often crucial for their election
and re-election, they are unlikely to rock the boat too much.
Thus, the MSC's religious and political foundations explain the
positions takes by RSC commissioners on issues ranging from
maintaining religious schools to keeping condoms away from
students. Furthermore, the MSC's choice of who to support in the
MCSC elections is revealing of an openness towards the far-right.
The longtime leader of the RSC is Michel Pallascio, Isabelle
Pallascio's son. Mr. Pallascio is the actual president of the
MCSC, and has been described as a "pillar on integrism" in
Quebec. His name also appears on a 1992 list of members of the
Association des Juristes Catholiques du Quebec. This group has
been fairly inactive over the past few years, but in the 1980s
its founding president, Emile Colas, repeatedly made the
headlines; in 1987 Colas publicly proposed that AIDS would only
be stopped through the "elimination" of homosexuals and
prostitutes, and in the early 80s had seen fit to represent a
fascist group (Young Canadians for a Christian Civilization) in
its quest to get an injunction banning the feminist play "Les
fees ont soif". Other AJCQ members include Andre Morais (the
founder of the Front Commun pour la respect de la vie in the
1980s), Pierre Labelle of the CIN, five judges, a former mayor of
Outremont, and Achille Larouche and Edmond Robillard of the RPPQ!
As president of the MCSC, Pallascio's ties to the far-right
are certainly very important. Yet he is not the only candidate
supported by the Mouvement Scolaire Confessionel with such ties.
Last December it was revealed that Pierre Messier, an RSC
candidate in last year's school board elections, was an important
member of the "Mouvement pour une immigration restreinte et
francophone". This group, known as MIREF, is perhaps less
fervently Catholic than the other racist groups mentioned in this
article, yet is certainly the closest to today's Quebec
Independence movement. Unlike Jeune Nation, the RPPQ and their
Catholic-fascist friends, the MIREF always supported Quebec
independence and called upon its members to actively recruit
among PQ supporters. While the group, which called upon banning
non-francophone and non-European immigrants from Quebec,
dissolved late last year, its members are still active, many of
them having since joined the Cercle Jeune Nation.
Maurice Prevost, school commissioner for the Duvernay region
of the MCSC, is another such fascist. Unlike Messier, Prevost was
one of the RSC's winners in last year's election, being chosen as
commissioner for the Duvernay district. Prevost is the CIN's
treasurer and past spokesperson for the Regroupement Provincial
des Parents Chretiens. It was on behalf of the latter group that
Prevost spoke at a press conference "for the rights of God and
the duties of man" in 1993, where he shared the podium with
Achille Larouche of the RPPQ, Gilles Grondin of Campagne Quebec
Vie and Jean-Claude Bleau, also of the Centre d'information
nationale. This April Prevost caught the attention of Voir
magazine when he spoke at Human Life International's Montreal
conference. According to the reporter who was in attendance, the
school commissioner described Quebec as being at the gateway to
hell, with homosexuality, immigration and abortion chief on his
list of social ills.
Another RSC school commissioner, Ronald Poupart, may or may
not have ties to the Cercle Jeune Nation. A blatantly racist
article signed "Ronald Poupart" in the January 1995 issue of
Cahiers de Jeune Nation describes the ideas of Nazi theorist
Oswald Spengler and Francis Parker Yockey, a rabid anti-semite
whose book Imperium became a Bible to post-war neo-nazis. It
includes observations such as: "At the least sign of military or
political weakness in the West, they (meaning non-Europeans) will
rebel and reject everything we've given them or turn around and
use these as weapons against us. Between them and us there is an
unbridgeable opposition of a spiritual nature." It should be
noted that RSC commissioner Poupart has not admitted to writing
this article, and so it is always possible that the author is
another "Ronald Poupart"...
Why do the RSC's connections to the Catholic hard right
matter? For several reasons. As commissioners, these
reactionaries get to appoint principals to the schools in their
district. They can also have groups visit schools to prostelytize
amongst students - as did RSC commissioner Peter Kelly earlier
this year when he had a pro-chastity group tour the MCSC's
schools. As the majority of the MCSC, the RSC also has a great
deal of power choosing how to spend the commission's money. For
example, earlier this year this same Peter Kelly had the
commission's budget amended so that 3 animateurs de pastorale
would keep their jobs - even though this meant firing other MCSC
employees whose jobs parents and school staff seemed to think
were more important! Furthermore, as the group in control of the
MCSC, it is the RSC's respsonsibility to make rules for schools
throughout the commission, on everything from installing condom
machines to punishing students who don't speak French to allowing
or banning the hijab or anything else for that matter!
And all of that without even mentioning the fact that the
RSC is responsible for the fact that there are still religious,
as opposed to linguistic, school commissions in Montreal! In
other words, it is high time people spread the word and start
organizing to resist and eventually get rid of these "good
Christians". Not simply by organizing at the next election, but
by organizing in the schools where the students - those most
likely to be hurt by the RSC's toxic ideas - are forced to spend
their days.
If this article has only touched upon one aspect of the
far-right in Quebec this is because while we all know that there
are fascist skinheads, punks and losers the mass media and other
authorities consistently pretend that that is the extent of the
problem. As if out of class solidarity these ostriches insist of
denying that academia, the Church, the army, police and civil
service are all breeding ground for this poisonous weed. If we
are ever to be rid of diseases like racism, sexism and
homophobia, we cannot afford to ignore the bigots in high places!

(Source: Demanarchie, V.2 #1 - Demanarchie, CP 32100, Montreal,
Quebec, H2L 4Y5, Canada)

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