Quebec’s Nationalistic Fears Make It A Strange Case

“But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts, compared to what the immigrant fears – dissolution, disappearance.”

—Zadie Smith, White Teeth

In terms of nationalism and its accompanying anxieties over immigrants infecting and diluting the culture, Quebec is such a strange case. The disappearance and dissolution of the Quebecois culture are the Quebecois nationalist’s fears, yet according to Smith these are the immigrant’s, the minority’s, fears. Yet the Quebec nationalist, precisely because of his fear of dilution and disappearance, fears infection and penetration that, in their mind, will only hasten the cultural dissolution. The province and its culture, its language, and its identity, are themselves a minority within Canada; a minority that many are desperately trying to preserve. Thus, they respond, of course, with ever increasingly fervent nationalism and intolerance to the immigrants who represent these anxieties over cultural penetration and infection. Immigrants, who by bringing in their own values and cultures, are perceived by some as potentially weakening the French-Canadian identity, an identity this province is trying to build a nation on. Like a bullied kid who in turn bullies other kids who are lower on the schoolyard social ladder than they are, Quebec is a minority stomping on minorities that are more minor than themselves. Quebec nationalism is formed out of what Smith calls the fears of the nationalist and the fears of the immigrant. Quebec fears both penetration and disappearance, and is thus paradoxically the minority and the national majority all in one.