Quebec’s New Alliance: Independence Party Emerges

On their way to work on July 15, 2023, the residents of Lennoxville had a funny surprise when they stopped at every crossroads in this borough of Sherbrooke. They found that many “ARRÊT” stickers had been placed on “STOP” signs in the neighborhood. Enough to give a hard time to the municipal employees who worked hard to remove them one by one. Behind this operation, which aroused the interest of the Canadian media, French and English, the activists of New Alliance (NA). A political movement that defines itself as the “main independentist and nationalist reference in Quebec” and which considers itself the shield of the language of Voltaire.

Organized on a model reminiscent of that of the royalists of Action Française (AF), these sovereignists were already causing controversy in this part of North America. According to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN), it was in March 2022 that the New Alliance was brought to the baptismal font by the young François Gervais. The movement is said to be an offshoot of another more notoriously known as the “French Canadian Front” (FCF), an ultra-nationalist, radical and radical Catholic traditionalist group, with links to the Society of Saint Pius X. On its various social networks, which have a thousand followers, the New Alliance exalts the idea of patriotism. “To be patriotic is to refuse globalized capitalism, the implicit spearhead of neo-liberalism. It is also to refuse the stateless extreme left, seeing everything only through the materialist prism, dangerously confusing bourgeois alienation with the founding myth, the border with enslavement, the national foundations with an opium [sic] domesticating the people”, can we read on the official Facebook page of the NA.

Backed by photos showing its activists wearing Quebec flags and fleur-de-lysed T-shirts, the New Alliance pleads for a large gathering of independence movements “insofar as the said forces are directed against the federal regime in Ottawa and its enslavement of the Nation”, in order to emerge as a single united bloc. Between the lines of these political demands and between two historical commemorations (such as the arrival of Jacques Cartier in Canada 489 years ago), the defense of the French language, inseparable from the French-speaking identity of Quebec. “Speaking French is not a due or acquired honor. It is a rebellion against what denies our identity, it is the fruit of cultural resistance: this permanent duty of every Quebecer. The country is first built in itself: the language is the fortress of the soul, without which it could not express itself in its own features. To make our French spoken in America heard is to pay off our debt to the ancestors, it is to reconnect with the essence of our people. […] To refuse to address the Quebec condition for what it is, namely the continual fight against British colonialism in all spheres of our popular existence, is to wallow in complicit comfort”, can we read on different posts visible on their official Facebook page. Activists who denounce the passive support of Quebecers for federalism.

The New Alliance draws its ideas from those of two late Quebec nationalist leaders. Like Charles Maurras for Action Française or Karl Marx for the Communist Party, it was Raymond Barbeau (1930-1992) who was favored by the movement. A Quebec professor and writer, he founded the Laurentian Alliance, the first organization to demand Quebec independence, in the late 1950s. Considered too right-wing, favorable to corporatism, wishing for the establishment of a government ” of Christian inspiration, which would perpetuate sound traditions”, Barbeau’s organization had ended up being dissolved a decade later, abandoned by its allies. He is not the only one because the movement ostensibly displays another admiration for Lionel Groulx (1878-1967). A priest and professor of history, he exerted a considerable influence on politics in Quebec for almost the entire half of the 20th century. We even owe him the creation of the current Quebec fleur-delysed flag (“the most solemn affirmation of the French fact in Canada” he explained in 1948). A talented lecturer and orator, on his return from a trip to Europe, he founded a review called L’Action française. The mimicry with the French royalists stopping at this title, his articles provoked virulent debates in Parliament. A true thinker of the Quebec nation, Lionel Groulx will end up coming into conflict with the younger generations who aspire to more action than speech. “It is quite natural that we set it up as a doctrinal master, thereby placing ourselves in the same line as many nationalist and separatist organizations of the last century”, affirms the New Alliance.

For years, Quebec politics has long been dominated by the Parti Québécois (PQ), which advocated the independence of the Belle-Province. Boosted by the visit of General de Gaulle in 1968, who did not hesitate to shout “Vive le Québec libre!” » on the balcony of the town hall in the Quebec capital (a journey that will turn out to be a real diplomatic disaster for the French president, almost expelled from Canada after this bravado, but transformed into a success by Gaullist propaganda and which still persists in the unconscious of the French), the PQ will succeed in imposing twice a referendum on the sovereignty of Quebec. First in 1980 when the “no” vote was largely the winner (with 60% against 40% of “yes”), then again in 1995 when Quebec narrowly missed separating from the rest of Canada (51% of “yes”). no” against 49% of “yes”). In the vein of General de Gaulle, President Jacques Chirac will not hesitate to give his support to the separatists during various declarations which will arouse the sardonic laughter of the Canadian government of the time. This second failure is a shock for the separatists who will have difficulty regaining their footing after this defeat. Today, the idea is no longer successful among Quebecers who ignore their motto: “I remember”…

In 2020, a poll published by the Journal du Québec revealed that only 36% of Quebecers wanted the independence of the most French of Canada’s provinces. Worse, 59% no longer even believe that this possibility could happen in the future. The age of the voters is even indicative of a conflict between generations. Those who saw the last fight for independence, 40 years and beyond, are the most inclined to want a new referendum. Among the new generation, sovereignism is of little interest. They are barely 31% between 18 and 35 years old to speak out in favor of independence, while it continues to fantasize their French cousins who are constantly remaking history on social networks, imagining to satiety what what could French Canada have been like if it had remained in the bosom of the Capetian monarchy. Figures that still remain the same today and that show that the idea of independence is in sharp decline in Quebec. Even if young sovereignists are trying to rethink it in order to make it more meaningful to a generation more sensitive to themes addressing inclusivity, wokism, LGBT rights or the fight against global warming.

It’s a long-term job that awaits the militants of the New Alliance, who will have to change beyond their brilliance, in order to break through and convince their own generation of the usefulness of their fight. Facing them, the powerful machine of the CAQ (Coalition avenir Québec) which has presided over Quebec since 2018 and which does not intend to make room for them. Led by the Prime Minister, François Legault, the political party demands only that the province obtain more powers (in particular in matters of immigration and the judiciary) and consolidate its autonomy within a federal Canada, almost relegating the independence idea to the oblivion of Canadian history.

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