So technically this next part involves skipping ahead in the section of the grand meeting between the Prime Minister and the CDS. The way the scene plays out in the novel goes: 1) Bishop arrives at the Langevin Block and sneers contemptuously at the politicians. 2) Bishop presents the facts of the uprising and his initial plan to deal with it. 3) Bishop gives a truly stunning (and basically insubordinate) speech that should have seen him relieved of his position, but doesn’t. 4) There is an incomprehensible (and in the greater scheme of the novel, pointless) diversion where the politicians bemoan the treachery of the perfidious French (including the Canadian, European and African variety), and 5) The Prime Minister gives a number of very vague orders to Gen Bishop. Potentially Bishop could take advantage of this vagary to gain an enormous freedom of action. For some reason, he will decline to do this, and will placidly drift towards disaster.
Because Bishop’s rant and the Prime Minister’s orders make for a good contrast, I’m going to cover them both in the next deconstruction post. This one is going to deal just with the French-bashing, since it basically comes out of nowhere and ultimately goes nowhere as well.
So let’s find out why the French are so horrible!
It was Hemp’s turn to look around the table. “Any other critical information we need to air right now?”
Aaron Hays, member for Halifax-Dartmouth and minister for foreign affairs, raised his hand. “Prime minister, I would like to say a few words on the situation prompted by the international, and especially the U.S, reactions to the situation.” He opened a slim file marked “Secret: Canadian Eyes Only,” and, without waiting for leave, he began.
The first part of this slim file deals with how the Americans are responding to the uprising. Even though the file is classified “Secret: Canadian Eyes Only” (which I don’t think is an actual classification) the information there is pretty much a collection of public statements that are in turn backed up by private conversations. Short version, the Americans are shocked and dismayed, and are already considering military action. But they’re not the ones we should be worried about:
“Second, our ambassador to the United Nations met with the French ambassador who told her that, quote, ‘the French people have had a long and mostly mutually beneficial relationship with Canadian Indians and that France encourages Canada to deal fairly with the matter,’ unquote.He then went on to say in effect that, ‘French citizens have a special relationship with Quebec and they expect France to aid in the protection of that distinct society.’ [Emphasis mine.]
For the non-Canadians out there, the words ‘distinct society‘ is an instant red flag for French-haters (and also one for First Nations activists). As with most things in Canada, the trivial becomes complicated pretty quick.
The short version is that Canada as a nation has a number of ‘foundational documents’ such as the British North America Act, the Balfour Declaration and the Statutes of Westminster, we never had a formal constitution that clearly delineated the rights of Canadian citizens. That changed in 1982 when Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau established ‘The Charter of Rights and Freedoms.’ The problem was that while the rest of Canada’s Provinces signed on to the Charter, Québec (for various reasons) did not.
So we got constitutional rights…but not in Québec? Not really. The Charter is in effect across the country, but it’s one of many weird facts in our recent history. Canada’s constitution was rejected by Québec.
After some general post-Trudeau confusion with various governments coming in and out of power, our next long standing Prime Minister was Brian Mulroney who – despite his Anglo background – had a well established relationships with various Québec leaders. Enter the Meech Lake Accord, an amendment to the Charter, which included several key clauses such as recognition of Québec as a ‘distinct society‘ and therefore guaranteed certain key rights regarding language and culture.
It seemed simple enough. Québec has a different language and heritage from Canada’s Anglo majority, so the Charter gets amended to reflect this. Everyone should be happy, right? No, actually. Here’s the problem: Under both the Charter and the Meech Lake Accord, First Nations were NOT considered ‘distinct societies.’ So…French colonizers were distinct and deserved special considerations, whereas the Indigenous Peoples whom they colonized were not.
This didn’t go over well, and was resisted in multiple quarters. The most famous of which was Elijah Harper’s protest in the Manitoba Legislature in which he single-handed held up a crucial vote to ratify the Accord in the face of the entire Provincial legislature. Including his own Party. This obviously landed like an anvil in the center of the Canadian political scene, but it was more than just a political stand. Harper’s protest took place during the Oka Crisis…which was itself a response to the encroachment upon an Indigenous community by a French one…. So that lent his actions even more weight and literally put Elijah Harper, as well as Indigenous rights and very concept of ‘distinct society‘ into the national spotlight.
….basically, 1990 was a really crazy year from Settler-Indigenous relations in Canada.
As you might imagine, this shit gets personal for a lot of people. For the rest of his life Elijah Harper became something of a folk hero to First Nations activists, while lot of other people still hold grudges to this day. I know people who were in government at the time, who bitterly refer to the Honorable Elijah Harper as ‘Mr Eagle Feather‘ to this day.
The whole overall theme here is pretty depressing. Basically it boils down to: French people suck. Therefore French Canadians suck. They’re all more trouble than they’re worth and any attempt to treat them with basic dignity and respect will lead to disaster. Think I’m kidding? Nope! As we will see, it’s not just Québec and France that are taking sides against this despicable Canadian government!
He ended by offering our ambassador his good offices to help negotiate an end to the conflict. Prime minister, I have to report that some senior members of my department suspect that the premier of Quebec may be having conversations with French officials in Ottawa or even in Paris, but we have no hard evidence of such goings on. I hardly need to tell you all that both these developments represent a threat to our sovereignty, and-“
They might even be meeting in Paris!
From the way Bland is characterizing France in this passage, it looks like he hasn’t moved far beyond the whole ‘Axis of Weasel‘ thing (see today’s Featured Image!). For those of you too young to remember (fuck, I’m old), the ‘Axis of Weasel’ dates back to 2003 when the Americans launched the Second Iraq War and France refused to support them.
Despite the fact that France was already deploying troops into Afghanistan (and wound up fighting various wars against Al-Quaeda aligned groups throughout Africa), pro-War Americans portrayed the country as a nation of cowards and back-stabbers. Hence the term ‘Axis of Weasel’ as a pun on Pres Bush’s infamous ‘Axis of Evil.’ It got to the point where the dominant Republican party voted to re-name ‘French Fries’ as ‘Freedom Fries' that were sold in the Congressional cafeteria. I wish I was kidding.
And they say liberals are snowflakes who invented cancel culture…
Fortunately, our brave PM is having none of this nonsense!
Hemp cut him off. “Well, our lady in Quebec City better have told that French ambassador bastard to get lost.” The prime minister turned and glared at his chief of staff. “Eddie, get their ambassador here on the phone right after this meeting and tell him that.”
So all joking aside, let’s inject a bit of real-life history into this discussion. This is a picture of a number of riots happening in France back in 2009, around the time when Bland published Uprising. These riots centered around the death of 21-year old Mohamed Benmouna, an Algerian immigrant who died under suspicious circumstances in police custody. Mr Bemouna’s death was the latest in a number of cases of police abuse directed at non-white minorities in France, and was seen as highlighting the inherent racism within French society.
Now, to give France credit, there are a lot of people who are fighting against the old racist and colonial mindset and the country as a whole has come a long way. One of the things I was most impressed by when I visited in 2008 was growing push to recognize the role of African colonial troops in the Free French Army during WW II. While the popular image of the French Resistance was that of the dashing white man in the black beret, when the reality was that a huge part of the FFA were dark-skinned Africans, and many of these were Muslim.
All of that set aside, the thing that needs to be emphasized here is that France, classically, has been one of the original colonial powers, including in Canada. While modern France has gone a long way in terms reconciling themselves with their imperialist history, there’s still a lot of old school racism left in the country. There would be no reason to suppose that France would instinctively side with an Indigenous rebellion in any country, let alone a NATO ally.
But never mind NATO! Apparently the mighty UN is about to weigh in on the issue…
Hays looked directly across the table at Hemp. “Prime minister, it gets worse. A proposal is being circulated at the UN General Assembly by the ‘African Francophone Coalition,’ which includes a number of states we have criticized in the past few years for their failure to protect minority populations. They are trying to get a Security Council resolution condemning Canada for its failure to protect the native population. They’re also looking for support for their idea that a UN peacekeeping force be sent to Canada to guard the natives from, quote ‘white abuse,’ unquote. It is unlikely at this point that the Security Council would even agree to debate the proposal, and anyway we expect the Americans and the Brits to veto it if it gets there. But the French ambassador said he was awaiting instructions from Paris.”
So Bland expects us to believe that France would side with French-speaking African countries (many of them her own former colonies) over a ‘white’ NATO ally. Right….
This is…shockingly rapid action on the part of the UN and overall international community. Like, the uprising just started five days ago and they’re already lining up behind the insurgency? Impressive. Now to be frank I would expect some country to try and take advantage of a civil conflict in Canada to advance their own agenda. Maybe even a group of countries. Politics is a bloodsport and there are a lot of sketchy countries out there who would be happy to stick a knife in our ribs, even if only symbolically. What’s baffling to me is that they might swing enough votes in the General Assembly to do anything more than grandstand.
“Sonofabitch!” Hemp slammed his palm on the table. “They’re just getting back at us for backing the Americans in Sudan. I’m accused in the Quebec separatist press of being an American lapdog and in the National Post as a French poodle. But I assure you, folks, I’m going to show Canadians I’m neither.”
Yup. It’s the ‘Axis of Weasel’ mindset for sure. Anything the Americans do, the French will instinctively oppose. Side with freedom-loving Americans even once, and those wicked ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ will be your enemy forever. Although Jack Hemp is supposed to be the quintessential liberal politician but his government backed the hated Americans in some kind of conflict in Sudan? That seems to be a bit out of character here.
Okay…so I can see how this might upset France if they were taking the opposite position. Even so, as we’ve already discussed, we’re talking about a country that has it’s own not-so-distant colonial past and issues with its own minority populations. Which it has been handling badly.
There’s a whole lot of stuff that Jack Hemp is going to order done (and much of it will be disregarded by Gen Bishop), part of which has to do with countering the actions of that awful United Nations!
“…get our UN ambassador on the phone and give her the word in the strongest tone – she is to protect our interests and lean on the Africans if necessary…”
Now I’m really at a loss. Apparently a bunch of evil French-speaking African countries are just so awful that they instinctively team up to take advantage of an internal crisis in Canada. But at the same time, the Prime Minister is convinced that Canada has enough pull within Africa that they sway a bunch of votes in her favor. These votes are taking place in the ever-so-powerful institution we know as the United Nations, and since this august body is known for how quickly it can act, Canada better act even quicker.
But then…didn’t Canada also invade fucking Zimbabwe?
This is another case of failure to edit compounding failure of world-building. We’ve seen in flashback scenes that Molly Grace had Hemp on her radar four years ago, apparently as Prime Minister. It therefore appears that Jack Hemp was the PM who appointed Bishop as CDS following his brilliant prosecution of the Zimbabwean campaign, which seems to imply that he was in turn the PM who authorized the invasion itself. At the very least, he was well-established in the government which carried out this invasion. So that raises a bunch of questions about just how dangerous Jack Hemp may, in fact, actually be.
Then there’s some huge questions about the implications of the Zimbabwe Mission itself.
So first there’s the fact that a ‘white‘ western nation invading and occupying an African one is a hell of an event. It’s not made clear exactly what the precipitating event that led to Canada (of all nations) toppling the regime of (then) Robert Mugabe, but unless there was some kind of broad consensus among African nations in the lead up, then Canada would be facing a lot of well deserved antagonism. It’s the lesson we should have learned from as far back as the Somalia mission, which got dramatically reinforced by the second Iraq invasion: Just because you’re fighting against something that’s evil, doesn’t mean people will see you as good. Especially not if your invasion is happening in their back yard.
So, doing Bland’s world-building for him, it’s possible that Canada is a pariah amongst many African nations because of our intervention in Zimbabwe. This is now coming back to bite us in the ass when several of these nations take advantage of the Movement’s rebellion to launch a UN-based signal-jamming campaign that will eat up government attention and diplomatic resources. That…vaguely makes sense? I guess?
This opens up a whole mess of questions I’ll probably have to engage with in a separate post. Bizarre as it may seem to want to do Bland’s work for him, I think there might be some worthwhile issues to examine. But that’s for later. Right now, all we get is world-building by petulance. Québec is bad because they want to separate, so anything they do is bad even if it sets them against the Movement (which is also bad). France once opposed America, so they must be bad too (hey, there’s a pattern!). So naturally they’ll side with Québec but also with the Movement (???) as an expression of their badness. And all those African nations that were colonized by French-speaking countries? They’re bad too.
They’re French, after all.
 In reality, Canada is part of the intelligence sharing network called the “Five Eyes,” consisting of Canada, the US, the UK, Australia & New Zealand, which make up the five dominant English-speaking liberal democracies of the world. Within this organization there is an enormous amount of information sharing, but I suspect there’s probably some form of classification that limits distribution to Canada only. I just don’t think it would be as blatant as “Canadian Eyes Only.”
 It gets more complicated when Quebec was the first Province to invoke the ‘Notwithstanding Clause’ of the Charter in order to enforce Provincial language laws that were otherwise deemed unconstitutional.
 There’s some people who paint Elijah Harper as a self-aggrandizing opportunist, pointing to the fact that the Meech Lake Accord had an even greater chance at being blocked in other Provinces rather than Manitoba. As proof, they would point to his increasing use of Indigenous items or clothing as his protest went on. This overlooks the fact that he was a Minister without portfolio in the Party (NDP) that had recently come to power, and that his protest put his rising career in serious risk. The Manitoba NDP did support Meech Lake, and their hasty vote which Harper derailed had been called specifically to rush the ratification through the Legislature. He literally poked his own Party in the eye when he voted against it. He had every reason to believe that he was burning his career to the ground when he took his vote.[4a] One of the things that I’ve noticed when I was looking up pictures is that all of his pre-Meech Lake vote appearances, he seems to be projecting a very conventional (that is ‘white‘) appearance. In his official election publicity photo, it’s even hard to tell that he had long hair. It was only after his vote that he felt comfortable in his Oji-Cree identity.
[3a] The eagle feather that he held when he first voted was said to have been given to him by friends who knew what he was considering and wanted to show their support. An eagle feather is a sacred symbol amongst many First Nations, and Harper would later say that he gripped the feather during his speech to give himself courage.
 People talk about so-called ‘Cancel Culture’ as though it’s exclusively a product of left-wing ideology. This ignores the reality that the right-wing is just as happy to censor things they believe is intolerable. While the ‘cancel culture’ of the left usually amounts to little more than a public outcry by individuals aimed at outrageous behavior, the right seems a lot more willing to use the power of the state to directly censor what they dislike.
 Mohamed Benmouna allegedly committed suicide in a French jail cell by hanging himself, but this cannot be confirmed as the security camera was broken. This echoed events from 2004 when a Malian man – Abou Bakari Tandia – died under similarly suspicious circumstances in police custody. In Mr Tandia’s case, the security camera in the jail also mysteriously malfunctioned. Source.