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.
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.
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.
"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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