Wednesday, September 05, 2012

On guns and women leaders in Montreal

Last night in Montreal, we as a province elected our first woman premier, Pauline Marois. She is a radical member of the separatist party, the Parti Quebecois. Many of us disagree with her policies and political ideals. Her platform is extreme, racist, and in my view, wildly unsustainable. Nevertheless, she was elected. And during her acceptance speech last night, a man attempted to shoot her using a high-powered automatic rifle inside - INSIDE - a crowded theatre. One person was killed and one more was injured. Ms. Marois is safe and was not injured.

Today while I wonder about the larger political issues we will face as a country now that Quebec has a new leader - Issues such as our long gun registry, our immigration policies, language debates and inter-provincial trade and relations - I constantly come back to last night and the people killed and injured. Pauline Marois is safe for now. But she is only one in a long line of women leaders targeted for gun violence.

Last night's scene was an intersection of the modern and the past coming together. A lone gunman with an unnecessarily huge weapon in a crowded theatre like in Aurora, but with a specific target in mind, as were the FLQ terrorists who kidnapped and killed Pierre Laporte.

In the collision of these events, a topsy-turvy re-creation of our long-standing argument with each other emerges. What is our culture? An argument. We disagree with one another on everything and most of the time, it's our strongest asset. It results in weirdness in our commercial language laws, and it results in eloquent leaders who can express themselves beautifully in debate. It results in extremely ugly conversations led by those same leaders about race, citizenship and nationality.

Up until now, we could generally agree that shooting at a public figure is not us. It's not what we do. And despite our occasional riots over the decades, we have one of the safest cities in one of the safest provinces to live in. Gun violence in Montreal is not unheard of, but it's extremely rare. This year, all of that changed. When protestors were met with tear gas and batons, when police tear gassed a local restaurant, unconnected to protest actions, when smoke bombs were let off in our subways, we changed how we disagree with one another.

Today we have much to digest. Are we people who will accept violence towards our first woman premier? Are we people who accept that one of us went into the Metropolis (one of my favourite theatres) with an assault rifle intent on opening fire?

These questions and how we answer them will do much to determine who we are and who we expect ourselves to be. I can't fully get around all of it on top of an election hangover. But I will offer this:

Congratulations Pauline. You were duly elected after years of Charest nonsense because you promised change. You were smart enough to welcome protest leaders into your party and though I see it as a purely political tactic, my hope is that their economic proposals will inform your tenure as our Premier. Your platform is repugnant to me and I see you as a worthy opponent in days to come. Please lead with dignity and openness to compromise. Good luck.