09/05/2012 07:48 EDT | Updated 11/04/2012 05:12 EST

Even Before the Shots, This Election Was Rooted in Hate


This blog post was supposed to be about firsts for Quebec. With record voter turnout at over 70 per cent yesterday, it was among the highest ever for this province. Additionally, the people of Quebec elected our first ever female Premier, Pauline Marois, and the PQ was ushered into power through a minority government; the first ever such mandate for the PQ, as they have only ever governed this province with a majority.

Regrettably, however, this has been eclipsed by story that is not unfamiliar in Quebec -- a lone gunman acting out of hatred.

As the Parti Québécois gathered for their victory party, shots were fired from an AK 47 where two people were shot; one man died on the scene. Pauline Marois was quickly ushered off the stage, and authorities swiftly apprehended the shooter.

While the motives and the intended target of the PQ shooter currently remain unknown, it is alleged that he shouted, "The English are waking up!" as he was being hauled into the police cruiser. I would add that after this, we're all waking up. We have awoken from our dreamlike haze of deeply partisan election coverage and into a moral hangover of sorts, as we come to grips with what has happened.

People are quick to place blame in instances like this; whether the blame lies on guns, a fractured healthcare system that allows for those afflicted with mental health issues to slip through the cracks, or overtly partisan political rhetoric, is somewhat irrelevant at this point. A man is dead, another critically injured, while our entire province is in shock and mourning.

The truth is, this was indeed a politically charged and divisive election. Language and identity issues somehow managed to eclipse more substantive election concerns. From the onset of this election, the central theme was framed very much as "us" vs. "them."

If you were a Liberal supporter, the "us" was unequivocally federalist Quebecers who needed to show up at the polls in order to quell a PQ victory and the inevitable subsequent referendum on sovereignty. Likewise, if you were a PQ adherent, you probably recited the party's election slogan, "it's up to us to choose," insinuating that up until now, decisions were being made by people you considered foreign to the PQ assemblage. Thus, the discordant tone of the election self-evident from its inception.

We are all to blame. It's not something that is easy to come to terms with, but it is the reality of the situation. When the political discourse in this province reduces itself to a claptrap mélange of xenophobic remarks and intransigent reactions, the outcome is never good.

By hijacking the dialogue away from meaningful issues and towards a cacophony of obstinate conjecture, we end up with a political discourse that has very little basis in reality or facts; paving the way for those looking to incite acts of hatred or violence. This is evidenced by numerous examples, with perhaps the two most poignant being the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011 and the 77 massacred in Norway during July of that same year.

Providing such a stark polarized political climate is merely kindling for those wanting to fan the flames of hate. Let us all remember that regardless of our political affiliations, mother tongue, or skin colour, we are all Quebecers and we are in this together. It is up to "us" to make sure "they" don't take that away from us.