Oui Shall Overcome!

Letter From Montreal

Quebec shows its patriotism every year on June 24, one week before Canada Day—not because the French-speaking province gets a head start on the rest of the country, but because June 24 is the feast day of Jean Baptiste, the patron saint of Quebec.

By no means has the holiday become void of religious significance. (See my article "Canada: The Catholic Factor" in the November 1998 issue of Catholic World Report.) But it is now more synonymous with Quebec nationalism than with the saint himself. Thus, the holiday is often referred to as La Fête Nationale.

While the other nine provinces celebrate Canada Day on July 1, the anniversary of the country's attainment of the status of a dominion within the British Empire in 1867, even many in Quebec who favor remaining part of Canada take more pride in St. Jean Baptiste Day.

In characteristic denial, the Canadian media reported that politics played no part in this year's celebration. "More Fun, Less Politicking," read the June 25 headline of the Montreal Gazette, Quebec's only English-language daily. It was reminiscent of the Toronto Globe & Mail headline on July 22, 1994: "Separatism not an issue, poll finds." Two months later, the separatists were victorious in the provincial elections, and the next year, Canada dodged a bullet when a bare 50.6 percent majority in Quebec defeated...

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