Comparing Latvia to Québec is false analogy

Why do academics inflict their particular, convenient analogies on the rest of us? Do they assume that ordinary people have no knowledge of history, that “plain folks” cannot draw proper comparisons? Do experts take it for granted that, just because they say so, “so it is”? Bafflegab nonsense is never acceptable. Even less so now, as Latvian President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga talks about important and controversial language-law legislation—if we recall what one Canadian government official had to say about Latvian “separatism” to begin with.

Years ago (in correspondence published in the Montreal Latvian Society newsletter Ziņotājs and elsewhere) I asked Canadian “unity” Minister Stéphane Dion to stop comparing a noisy minority trying to break the province of Québec away from Canadian confederation to national Baltic “separatists” (his label), who had “seceded” (his description) from the Soviet Union. The two cases are not even close, by any stretch of the imagination. Emotion-laden terminology fails to manufacture valid connections between them.

Québec, I pointed out, has never been an independent country. As a territory (then the British colony of “Lower Canada”), it willlingly joined the Confederation more than a century ago. Québec separatists were (and still are) trying create what never was. Latvia, in stark contrast, had been a sovereign republic, a member of the League of Nations. Latvians threw off Russian occupation to regain the natural independence they enjoyed before “the West” abandoned Eastern Europe to communism at the end of the Second World War.

Dion, a former university professor, was formulating clear “rules of separation” (for provinces) here—since Québec has a nasty habit of making up its own as it goes along. He drew parallels between Canadian legislation and “orderly procedures” Mikhail Gorbachev had set up to keep the Soviet Union cobbled together. Irrelevant. Latvians had no obligation to play by Moscow rules, designed to maintain a union imposed by force and terror. They simply took back what had already been theirs, what they had fought for and established, what had been stolen from them. They could not, logically, have “seceded” from an aberration they had never joined of their own free will. For an oppressed, occupied nation—which Québec can never claim to be—this was more than a procedural exercise.

I appealed to Dion to appreciate this difference between “may we?” legislation aimed at clarifying provincial options in a democratic confederation and a national imperative that rejects illegitimate invaders. Despite some singing and dancing in his reply, I believe that he recognized the point.

Latvia has regained independence. Dion no longer is a cabinet minister. But we never learn from history, even the history of arguments, so we are condemned to repeat the dance, this time in a minor but still-painful key.

During a sympathetic Feb. 23 Canadian Broadcasting Corp. news interview with Joe Schlesinger, Vīķe-Freiberga hailed “the success” of Québec’s Bill 101 in “reestablishing French in the public domain” as a precedent for Latvian language-law legislation. No serious qualifiers surfaced during a longer version of the piece braodcast March 6 on CBC Newsworld. Strange. Why this—how may we call it?—attachment to academic constructs that have no substantial foundation?

Surely Madame President knows that Canadian and Latvian (historical, political, ethnic) circumstances are not similar, that language legislation in Canada is a controversial exception, not a precedent to emulate. Her estimate of “success: is debatable—by Latvian-Canadians who lean toward local Anglophone communities, and by non-francophones within Québec (who see themselves as victims of Bill 101). The “public domain” she envisages is hardly national: it does not extend past New Brunswick (Canada’s only officially bilingual province), Québec (which is stridently unilingual French) and Ontario (mainly within the federal government in Ottawa). Most Canadian citizens do not accept any logical or moral justification for Bill 101. They see it as a constant irritant that pits one citizen against another.

Why, then, even mention it in connection with our own Latvian problems? Such offhand analogies compromise understanding of and damage good will toward our cause. This one is likely to make everyday diplomacy more difficult as well.

Start with the obvious difference, again : Latvia is a country, Québec a province of Canada. What a country does (for all citizens) and what a province does (for some) cannot have the same importance, or be measured with the same yardstick. National and regional “success” are two very different propositions.

Like any sovereign country, Latvia has the right to determine what its official language should be. (There is only one, and it is Latvian.) Latvia does not need to obtain approval from Moscow, or the European Union, in order to pass language laws, reconfigure its educational system, to “present a Latvian face” to visitors, and so on. For better or worse, the Latvian Parliament (Saiema) makes the rules, no one else. No elected regional assembly—in Vidzeme, Kurzeme, Zemgale, or Latgale—is empowered to issue challenges, or enact local exemptions. (We can discuss the city government of Rīga as a sad and special case, but that is another story.) In other words, there is no need to be defensive about what Latvia does, or explain it in analogies others are bound to misunderstand.

Canada is a confederation of provinces, Québec among them. The two official languages of Canada, equally enshrined in the Constitution, are English and French. (Neither one, therefore, cries out for “reestablishing.”) But equal, or “the same,” is not enough in this age of special entitlements. Any Canadian province may invoke an escape-hatch “notwithstanding” clause. It allows provincial legislatures to opt out of constitutional arrangements (for example on tax collection, health care or language) whenever they do not agree with federal policies, or feel that they must act uniquely for political reasons. The price of official unity in Canada, strangely enough, is this mechanism for potential disunity and discord. But there is no such mechanism in the Latvian Constitution, as the president knows. Latvia’s language law is not subject to any kind of “not in our back yard” disregard. It simply is. It applies everywhere. Respect it, or move on.

You will find no nation called Québec in world maps, or at the United Nations. Nevertheless, using the legislative loophole mentioned, Bill 101 declares French to be the “national” language of Québec, and gives it prominence (in signage, hiring practices, language of work, and so on)—evading Canadian constitutional guarantees. The rest of Canada, for practical purposes, is another country. Appreciate these details: traffic tickets are issued in French only; Anglophones must make special requests if they wish to “enjoy” court proceedings in English; there are no English road signs; Web sites must be mainly in French; software can’t be sold unless there is a French version; Canadians settling in Québec must send children to French schools; the civil service does not hire Anglophones; July 1, Canada Day, has been designated “moving day” by the provincial government, and so on. All this within a country where English is an official language. Worse, the federal government takes no notice. (In fact, it pushes acceptance of French, also known as “bilingualism,” in the rest of Canada.) The net result is that Anglo (and immigrant) Canadians in Québec are second-class citizens. This is hardly a precedent to applaud.

It is nifty, comfortable and assuring, however, if you are a unilingual francophone and wish to lead a sheltered “collective” life within provincial borders. Many do just that; for some this represents “success.” But consider the opposite dimension: 400,000 Anglophones have left Québec since Bill 101 became law. Hemmed in by nagging, petty regulations that promote the primacy of French at the expense of English, harassed by provincial language police (fondly known as “tongue troopers”), many who were not “pure wool” Québecois decided to pull up roots and start again elsewhere. These were not radicals, colonists or economic migrants, but ordinary Canadians who had lived and worked in Québec for generations. They had had enough. The steady decline of Montreal as an “international” city—once host to a World’s Fair and the Olympic Games, should not come as a shock. “Others” are not welcome there. The less they speak up, the better. The faster they absent themselves from provincial decision-making, the more comfortable local ethnically-cleansed majorities will be. Bill 101 does not “promote” French per se; it suppresses English (and all other languages) so that French can appear to be more prominent. Bill 101 flies in the face of equality as prescribed by national consensus. It is an aberration in a political culture that has otherwise been remarkably even-handed.

Latvia’s language law seeks to redress the ravages of brutal Soviet colonization (which imposed Russian as the sole “all-union” language in occupied countries as a key conveyor of rule “from the center”). That era is dead and gone (but not forgotten). It is now (again) our independent, fundamental right to underline and enforce the primacy of one natural national language, our own, to ensure its survival, to clearly make it the language of government, education and business, to insist on its use within the civil service and the armed forces—as similar legislation does in many western countries. Nothing is exceptional about this. Our law recognizes the right of minority groups to organize private schools, publish in their own language, and so on. But it refuses to consider, in principle, the creation of any acknowledged duality. More generously: it allows 40 percent of subjects to be taught in public schools in Russian. How “tolerant” must a nation liberating itself from lingering colonial influences be? How often should our language law be softened to calm those who refuse to accept basic principles, as Madame President has done twice by sending clauses back to the Saiema for “clarification”? (In this she has not quite been the Margaret “Iron Lady” Thatcher clone Schlesinger portrayed in his interview.)

Many of us cannot understand why the language of remaining colonists and their offspring should receive any public recognition, tax-paid support, or safe niche through a conciliatory back door. It seems like “peace-in-our-time” waffling to make these people more comfortable than they should be, or put off a harsher choice: conform, assimilate, or leave. Enough catering to privileges migrants cannot claim in other countries. These pretensions are even less welcome now, when “minority” children, for example, should be able to speak the language of the country (not province) into which they were born, where they reside by choice and, hopefully, aspire to become loyal citizens. If that is not their goal, they are free to move on. If parents want to use them as cannon fodder in a language war and thereby deprive them of a better future, that is their responsibility and burden, not ours. They will have no one to blame but themselves when willful ignorance of history comes home to roost—as in not qualifying for Latvian citizenship, say, which will be essential for taking out EU papers within a few months. Let us have no compromises on that score. Fervent nationalists though they may be, Quebeckers still need a Canadian passport. There is no escape from asking for one. Russian nationalists in Latvia may fall back on their “motherland” passport and enjoy whatever benefits it can provide. I can’t wait for a solid NATO and EU “control line” along the Russian border. Then, as they say, “let’s talk.” For real.

Latvia’s situation is not Canada’s. Moscow applied Russification to Latvia for 50 years. There is no comparable history of “colonization” here (apart from “creative community” fantasies). Latvia must restore the primacy of its one language. Canada has enshrined language duality. The Canadian Constitution says both English and French are good. Choose freely. Speaking and being able to work in both is an advantage. (Unless provincial politicians cater to paranoia, as they have with Bill 101.) But unhappy Russians in Latvia strive for a distinct identity. They are the “separatists” now. Their “where did it all go?” should be dismissed, because “it” will not return. A sense of proportion would be useful in making comparisons.

I am repeating myself, I know. Call it piling on, if you like. But we have to nail down differences in the interests of avoiding more public relations gaffes.

Bill 101 attempts to insulate a pampered minority (located in one province) from making choices, despite having its language safeguarded in a national constitution. Latvia’s language law reasserts (ever so gently) the natural rights of a threatened national majority—a mere 1.5 million still-unique people adrift in the “European sea,” encumbered by half-million sullen Russian-speaking non-citizens in their midst. Bill 101 protects a strong linguistic group (7 million out of 30-odd million Canadians) concentrated in one province—which faces no threat whatsoever—by discriminating against English, the national (and the continental) majority language. Latvia’s language law defends the only language this nation has. For Québec, France remains a linguistic homeland and sentimental umbilical. Russians in Latvia have their aggressive, pushy motherland next door. Latvians have no other connection, nowhere to go. They stand alone. Madame President knows all this, too.

Unlike the neo-colonial pretensions of Russians in Latvia, Canada’s duality is already a functioning living thing: the Canadian civil service employs francophones out of proportion to their national numbers, with senior positions designated bilingual; the proceedings of Parliament are conducted and printed daily in both official languages; there are, per capita, far more French immersion school programs in the rest of Canada than English-immersion programs in Québec; Ottawa does business in both languages, while Québec does not; Canada treats both “heritage communities” with equal respect, for example participating in Commonwealth and Francophonie activities; Quebeckers have served as prime ministers of Canada more often than politicians from any other group, and have safeguarded the interests of their constituency with great care; the Canadian Supreme Court maintains a near-50 percent complement of Québec judges. On and on. The Canadian public domain is a far different place than Québec’s—or Latvia’s. Some historians say that Quebeckers have enjoyed “success” in it far out of scale to what they have contributed to national unity. Russians in Latvia, meanwhile, whine and moan about lost privileges, and insist on contributing nothing but complaints and accusations. Canada is a working federation—yes, with its share of problems and disagreements. Latvia must shake off Russian influence in order to emerge, again, as a distinctive nation.

Does Madame President still want to suggest some kind of vague equivalency? Through a fairly meek language law, some concept of parallel “success”? I would counsel her to reconsider and tread with great care. All of Latvia is our “public domain”—no exceptions, exemptions, special rules. Unlike Canada, we cannot tolerate any double standard. Our survival, as a nation, is at stake. Québec’s, as a province, is not.

More than 200 year ago the king of France abandoned Québec (“some acres of snow,” he said) after losing a colonial war to England. (He did receive Martinique as compensation.) The following English administration, over time, did not impose assimilation, but allowed the (Catholic) religion, civil (Napoleonic) code and language (French) of conquered colonists to continue and flourish. If we cut to the chase, Québec has emerged—within Canadian confederation—far more vital, influential and secure than this king could ever have imagined. I invite comparisons of this history to constantly-occupied Latvia’s as Russian, German, Swedish, then again Russian, German and Russian forces imposed their “order” and their language on a small, beleaguered band of Latvians who stood in their place for more centuries than any North American colony. To late-coming outsiders, we were exploitable territory and workers held in servitude. To us, they were foreign invaders who applied force as they pleased. We can cry “occupation!” more times than you can count, but never-occupied Québec may not. We must deal with the results of crushing policies strangers have imposed on us just to maintain our existence, but Québec cannot envisage anything similar in its rush to self-promotion. And so we should disdain any claim of similarity. Our national self-respect demands pride and clarity. I say disdain not because we can’t use all the help and understanding we can muster, but because we should not ask for any of it under false colours.

It is true that Québec is not a province like the others. It is‘distinctive. I, too, admire its relentless resilience. But what it does to maintain selective distinctiveness, next to what Latvia must do to reestablish its own as a living, breathing whole, is a comparison between the privileged and the abandoned. We should have no romantic illusions about that. “Tolerance” in Québec, compared to what some push as “tolerance” in Latvia, are two very different beasts. Latvians have no moral obligation to tolerate oppressors, their heirs and sympathizers. The sooner we stop doing so, the better off we’ll be. And the better others will understand us.

There is another factor. Diaspora Latvians (through their collective strength in expressing a sense of necessary justice) have spent a great deal of time and energy making a specific case for overdue Western help. We have tried to illuminate our uniqueness—of history, place, time and circumstance—in a dossier that should not be cast aside for a careless media moment that, out of the blue, confuses issues. In real time, sentiment in the rest of Canada toward unending (Québec) French “aspirations” is less than enthusiastic. Latvian goals should not be coupled to this controversy in any way.

And still another factor: the constant argument of French-speaking Quebeckers has been that they are entitled to “special protection” (as per Bill 101) because their language is “drowning in a sea of English.” To that one can reply: it hasn’t drowned yet and, in fact, is stronger then it has ever been thanks to federal government policies and guarantees. Again, there is no comparison to genocidal Russian (and local quisling) policies that targeted the Latvian language and culture for eradication. We have no obligation to entertain a kinder, gentler version under the guise of human rights, or any formula that maintains the privileges of remaining occupants equal to (or even ahead of) those they have abused for too long. That would be gutlesness and suicide—and a fatal loss of self-respect.

Language, someone said, is oxygen. We need our intrinsic, undeniable share. There is no shortage of oxygen in Québec. It is not drowning by any measure. Latvians, on the other hand, may well be unless they reassert their uniqueness as they re-enter Europe. That will bring on another flood of languages—unlike anything Québec can (or is willing to) imagine.

So why does Madame President liken this special (provincial) case, an exemption from national norms, with our own (far more serious) problems, which the Latvian government is trying to correct with national norms? I’d like to know where the analogy lies. Is she suggesting that Latvia should treat its resident Russian non-citizens nationally as Québec treats resident non-Francophone Canadian citizens: provincially? How is this possible? Is the reverse perhaps that Latvians nationally need the same kind of “protection” francophone Quebeckers enjoy provincially? No comparison. Perhaps she envisages an eventual result: the exodus of several hundred thousand discontented Russians back to the floundering motherland Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited them to rebuild. Fine and good. Eminently desirable. But Latvia is nobody’s province any longer and should stop thinking and acting like one—as though faraway (perhaps too-familiar) “examples” may justify what we must do for ourselves, in our unique circumstances. Let us not coattail along on somebody else’s feeble excuses for discrimination when our self-determination calls for actions that are completely different and crystal-clear.

Maybe it was a dimwit speechwriter, a researcher too lazy to get past the first few easy Web hits and establish context for many kinds of language laws, or a “briefer” enticed by superficial similarities ahead of substance. Maybe, Madame President, it was your own experience and how you perceived things to be. Yes, there is enormous pressure to respond time after time. But, please, do not say in the face of overwhelming evidence that protection of Latvian in Latvia is (can be, should be) modeled on protection of French in Québec and in Canada. It cannot, and should not be. Shorthand like this, while handy for sound bites, is slippery and dangerous. Remove it from your otherwise excellent and inspiring repertoire.

15 thoughts on “Comparing Latvia to Québec is false analogy

  1. Not much that I would disagree with and I dare say that Madame President might say likewise. However the analogy being drawn by her between Latvian and Quebec language politics has been made primarily in Canadian media interviews for Canadian audiences. However put, the point is simple … you accept, tolerate, perhaps even support Bill 101 in Quebec, well, Latvia’s language laws are far less draconian, so lay off. This is not about an indepth analysis, this is about a sound byte in the evening news or in a short documentary. It’s all politics and it doesn’t play out all that badly.

  2. I whole heartedly agree with your statement in regards to bill 101.
    Being from western canada, the language issue is a hot debate anywhere. In the west it is viewed just another one of Ottawa’s attempts to keep the Quebec province happy while ignoring the west. In regard’s to your situation, nothing could be further from the truth. The situations are totally & completely different.
    To compare a COUNTRY that has had the difficult task of throwing off the eastern block yolk to a province that
    CONSIDERS itself a seperate nation should not even be considered.

  3. i feel a need to respond to your article posted in May 15’th 2004 – Comparing Latvia to Québec is false analogy – JURIS MAZUTIS

    Some say the underlying purpose, if not the sole purpose of establishing separatist sentiments in Quebec was to assist in the establishment of a Franco-Elite in this Province, and of shifting political power away from other Provinces of the Confederation. From your article, it is predominant in your argument that the central purpose of language laws, if not the single aim of it in Latvia is the establishment of a similar elite majority, and the exclusion of what you appear to recognize as “remaining colonists and their offsprings.” Unfortunately, unlike in Canada (Quebec obviously inclusive of this), these residents of Latvia are not called citizens, nor do they enjoy the privileges of citizenship.

    Thank you for informing me that “Latvia’s language law is not subject to any kind of “not in our back yard” disregard. It simply is. It applies everywhere. Respect it, or move on.” A nice thing to know this, and thank God as well for my Canadian birth. Because those born in Latvia, and for whom their grandparents were Latvian-born and mostly Russian-speaking, relate to me the following message. I saddly convey to you that they sometimes fear their newly gained freedom and sovereingty under the banner of Latvia. “Who knew that most of us would not get citizenship and would obtain the passport of alien status? Or that 18 professions in this newly formed country would be prohibited to us Among many other humiliations…..” As Canadian born, i even find this dificult to undestand, let alone try to imagine how this would make me feel as an individual.

    Thank you also for informing me that ….. “Like any sovereign country, Latvia has the right to determine what its official language should be. (There is only one, and it is Latvian.)” Are you sure about this? I am sorry, yet this is not the case. In point of fact it is the right of the elected government of Latvia, by proxy of its electorate to determine the official language and to change it accordingly under its constitution if its citizenship deems it should be so. On the other hand, citizenship should have something to do with birthright, anyway the U.N would wish it were. Otherwise a rather large number of non-citizens would be cropping up all over the planet, and from

  4. your article, i can see just begin to imagine how many there would be.

    i will read on a bit more, but, well now really, quite frankly ….. i gave up on this article some time ago already

    “1.5 million still-unique people adrift in the “European sea,” encumbered by half-million sullen Russian-speaking.”

    This cant be right, Oh yes i forgot, you are referring to citizens here, not actual people living there who will likely be considered aliens until the forthright view of the EU and United Nations makes Latvia realize that they cannot continue to treat these residents as non-citizens

    of this history to constantly-occupied Latvia’s as Russian, German, Swedish, then again Russian, German and Russian forces imposed their “order” and their language

    Well about this you do have a good point, and so it seems the Russian-speaking non citizens have been there ever since my forefathers arrived here in Canada, 1642 Ville de Quebec.

    Many of us cannot understand why the language of remaining colonists and their offspring should receive any public recognition, tax-paid support, or safe niche through a conciliatory back door.

    I agree with you … many do not understand, as you so perfectly demonstrated in your article.

    Democracy, co-operation, multi-nationalism, equal rights, i dont know if you understand any of this. Bilingualism. Ever heard of it. Works for some. And i know the honourable Vaira Frieberga would agree that it does, so give her a chance, please, her republicans deserve no less.

  5. I am posting a reply to the following forum centering on this article by Mr Juris Mazutis, posted by Peteris Cedrins in July.

    Subject: “Juris Mazutis’ Opinion Piece”
    Posted by Peteris Cedrins
    Message URL:

    For some reason I have not received access to your forum, was unable to register, and so i will post my reply here.

    As a representative of the ‘plain folk’ and a resident of Latvia from birth, I have but one question to ask of you, Peteris.

    When was your last visit to Latvia? For if you were to have toured here recently you would have found it to be an absolutely different country today, then what you describe.

    You would not find waiters or waitresses serving Latvians in Dziesmu Svetki greeting you in Russian, unless the case being she hates her job so much she is prepared to be dismissed for not speaking the official state language. Come visit Latvia now, Petris, and if you walk into a shop, you will always be addressed in Latvian first. Always. Then after the initial greeting, you
    will probably be served in Russian or another language should the shop assistant know it and sees that you are not familiar with Lettish and she/he is able to speak your language, be you English, Russian, German….

    And I will tell you why. According to the “State Language Law” the employer cannot hire a worker who hasn’t passed Latvian language exams and obtained the necessary diploma to show it. Otherwise the employer is fined or subject to even greater troubles and repercussions from it all.

    The same situation exists everywhere, even in the central market in Riga. According to our State Language Laws, a managing director of a legal enterprise (commercial business) is required to (must) speak Latvian. Needless to mention the secretary – normally they speak fluently at least 2
    languages or even more. The owner of a business who is not an employee, in the case where he or she doesn’t speak Latvian, or has not passed through language exams, is required to (must) have a hired translator. This is law. And it is at risk of loss of your commercial business, to be closed down if you do not comply.

  6. If you were to visit Latvia recently you would know there are companies(almost entire business sectors) FOR LATVIANS ONLY! Tell me how many Russians work for L.M.T.? – one of the richest companies here. And you would know that if you switch on you T.V. you will hardly find 20% of
    programmesmovies in Russian. With regards to radio – there are 2 types of radio station programming content – Russian and Latvian. Latvian stations are in Lettish, Russian language stations are required to (must) keep the proportion 70% Russian to 30% Latvian content. And they conform to this, otherwise they will be fined or lose their airing licence. Another point is
    that Russian stations are trying to keep this 30% Latvian content during the evenings.

    You should know Petris, that the profession of policeman/woman is restricted to citizens and for the most part, the citizens are Latvians. Those policemen/women who speak Russian, or are of Russian descent who work there are required to (must) pass through the state language exam and speak Latvian. So you do not live in Daugavpils.

  7. You would know then that graduating from school this year, our children passed a very complicated exam in Latvian lasting several hours and consisting of a highly demanding grammatical test, an oral part (spoken Lettish), and composition. Automatically gives them a diploma (certificate) for their further career at work or in studies. and they passed it in spite of doing a protion of their studies in their native language.

    If you live there now, you would know all of this. If you live there, then you are a notorious liar in your statements. If you live there, contact me and show me a doctor who dares to treat a Latvian person in Russian; you will look for a very long time to find one – I want to meet this brave, extremely brave person.

    As to your friend “…who is fluent in Latvian and English but has not been advanced at her position because she doesn’t speak a word of Russian”. Yes, this situation is quite possible here. Depends the company she works for and the position she hasn’t been advanced at. If the company is dealing with Russia and the Russian (Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Hindu – depends the country of the business partner of the company) language is important in such positions for the benefit of business – obviously the person with knowledge of this language has more chances to be advanced. and this is naturally because every businessman’s concerns are his customers, his market, wherever thorugout the world they may be. It can happen in any country.

    As to the loopholes you mentioned, yes they can be found. But they can be found everywhere. In the greatest of democracies and republics, in the worst of regimes and concentration camps too.

  8. Most of Latvia’s laws can be found there will be the word “Meklet” which means “Search”. I say this for the benefit of our International audience, and for your benefit Peteris, just in case you haven’t been to Latvia for such a long while and may have forgotten.

    And please, tell people about the violence with what the authorities of Latvia are trying to “Latificate” national minorities here. O probably you want to tell about PERKONKRUST activities (Lettish neo-Nazi illegal organizations) and their Godfather in the West? Or would you prefer I should describe some of this here next time.


    By the way, and as a fan of dogs myself, I was happy to hear that this Canadian University has
    allowed that poor discriminated against seeing-eye dog to go to school there now.

  9. Back when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was in office I once sent a letter clearly defining the differences between Latvija and Quebec which Canadian politicians and media types were intent on equating that their situations were one and the same. Apart from the occupation and incorporation aspects of Latvija’s history I also included the following. No Quebecer has been known to be executed or sent to die in the Northwest Territories for his/her political or religious views. None of Quebec’s grand churches have been desecrated or turned into concert halls, movie theatres or grainaries. No Quebec youngster was prohibited from attending church or singing in a church choir.No Quebecers freedom of speech, freedom of assembly or freedom of movement has been denied by an occupying force. One could go on and on listing all of the atrocities committed by Communist occupation and aggression but we are all familiar with these events.
    In a further exchange between either Gorbachev or Yeltsin( my memory fails here) Prime Minister Brian Mulroney when confronted with the same equation, that Latvia was just another version of Quebec, his answer to him was that “it was an odious comparison”. Here is one man who did know the difference and did much to help Latvija ,and Canada was one of the first countries to recognize Latvija’s re-independence.

  10. I discovered this article late one night and haven’t read every word, just enough to see clearly that Juris Mazutis is an ignorant bigot. Good – stay in Ottawa, don’t come back to Québec. (If you ever even were here.) Your article is too full of distortions and nonsense to bother analysing in detail. In general, you sound like the ignorant people of various kinds who were ranting about Lithuania trying to destroy “the unity of the USSR” in 1990. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t heard anyone claim that God has ordered the political map of North America to stay the way it is forever. At the next referendum, thanks to Loi 101, la jeunesse du Québec will vote for souveraineté, and everyone in Québec will be better off, just as Latvia is now better off. That’s democracy.

  11. I strongly agree with Gintautas, your article is not correct and has many errors. You obviously don’t live in Québec, or maybe you are one of these strangers who only speak english and only get one side of the story.
    La loi 101 lets the children from english-speaking parents go to english school. Also, it is not true to say that Québec is a xenophobic province trying to get rid of people who don’t speak french. For two centuries, until the 60s, the administration was vastly english-speaking and going into a store in Montréal for a french speaker was like stepping in London. As someone was trying to get service in french, the employees would tell him to “Speak white !”. There was no place for french.
    In 1840, Lord Durham was sent in Quebec to propose a solution to the king of England to get rid of the Quebekers. In his paper to the House of England, he talks about how retarded, dumb and stupid no-culture farmers the Quebekers are and that a strong immigration of english-speakers was required to assimilate us. The french language only survived thanks to the Church who wanted to keep us catholics by using french to unite the people. Now that we got rid of the priests, french is not in danger but needs to be well kept.
    In Quebec, all people ask is a little respect for the language. Only coming into a store and saying “Bonjour !” instead of “Hi” is liked. The problem is that there are still (lot fewer than before) some english-speakers who refuse to learn french altough english is the mothertongue of only 8-10% of the population !
    I am from Belgium and i’m a strongly hoping sovereignty will come for us. Like many immigrants, I strongly believe in the Nation-State. Now, 40% of immigrants children are for independance, proving that Quebec’s independance is not an ethnic projet, but a society choice.
    In Quebec is living the largest community of Shoah survivors (after Israel, of course). In Montreal, strangers are everywhere (I am one of them) and in my private high class school, 44% of the students are not from quebeker parents. In montreal, everyone is proud of its culture. I don’t believe multiculturalism can get any better than in Québec. I don’t believe it is the same in Latvia.
    Stop pretending that strangers are driven out of QUébec because of our language laws. As I know, WE never had an SS section in our country… unlike Latvia.

  12. I found all of the articles and comments regarding comparisons between Latvias ( Russian Yoke ) and Quebecs ( English Yoke ) as being similar. Well I can tell you one thing that Latvia had no choise and she was not occupied by a benevolent master! There were no multiple choise questions, it was their way ( Russians ) or a perminent vacation in sunny Vladivostock!!
    Anyway this whole disscusion would not even be taking place if the British ( whom were the clear victors ) had taken the usual steps all vitors take over their new subjects…live by our ways or leave period!!!
    I am myself a Canadian with Latvian heratage and I have always felt that the British made a mistake by allowing the French so much lattitude after their defeat. I am not anti-French! I am just anti-wine and anti-special privaleges, regardles of your background. I blame the English more for the French/English quagmire in Canada today. This is much like a bug bit in the middle of ones back that is irritating and sometimes painfull, but can`t be properly and effectively delt with by a firm and determined ” SWAT “.
    This” swat ” is long overdue and has been 500 years in the making. At least Latvians had the courage to ” SWAT ” their bug hopefully for good!!!!


  13. I think the Latvian policy, which oppresses Russians, who, for almost 2 or 3 generations and many for hundreds of years have been living there, is just a shame. It reminds me of the Nazis mentality, creating a “pure race” State, where only one culture should be possible.
    Latvia has already been forced to correct some of the worst Laws, which contradict human rights. But still 470.000 People remain to be ALIENS, as it is written on the passport for “non citizens”, as they are officially called in Latvia
    The Baltic Region has always been a multi-ethnical, multi- national Region, where Russian culture can be found as early as in 900 AD! Latvia had been a part of the Russian Empire from 1710 on. And there were germans, danish, sweds before
    Even in the dark stalinistic times, Latvians always had Latvian kindergardens and Schools and even a university. Thought many Latvians were punished in 1945-1953 for the Latvian collaboration with Hitler, there have never been attempts to destroy the Latvian Language or Culture. There were 70% Latvians in the Latvian communist party. In the “Revolutionary Comity of 1917” which hat 44 members were only ONE Russian, but 4 Latvians!
    The Russian Language was the official language for the 140 ethnicities of the USSR- but local languages were official languages too. All citizens had the choice, which school their children should attend to.
    Anyway, the loss of the Russian language is a disadvantage, because the Latvian language is only spoken by a small group. To get in touch with the World literature, Culture or Economy, Latvians have to acquire another language: English, German or- Russian.
    By the way: 31% of the babies in Latvia in 2004 were born to mixed couples! I think this fact makes it absurd, to refer to Russians as to occupants.
    It’s a sin to destroy culture und to oppress people. No matter how the past may have been.
    (I am a French, living in Austria who had been twice in Latvia. Please excuse my poor english)

    PS: The SOVJETS are not equivalent to THE RUSSIANS!
    Communism ist not a Russian invention, nor a russian speciality. In 1940 only 0,7% of the russian familys hat a family-member beeing in the communist party! Please do not confound “Russians” an “Sovjets”. Russians are a slawic ethnicity. Stalin was Georgian. There were only 44% Russians in the Sowjetunion!

  14. Marilou, please go to nearest public library and research whole Latvian issue. Stick to facts, not emotions.

    Experiment, called “Soviet Union” was a product of Russian own making, therefore most of “Soviet” still belongs to “Russian”. The same crabs, just pact in a different can.

    Most interesting part that these crocodile tears shed on this issue are NOT ethnic Russians in Latvia who disputes the historical facts about Soviet-Russian occupants. Most of complainers are people from others mixed minorities, including good portion with Jewish background.

    That why it is therefore highly hypocritical complaint in behalf of ethnic Russians in Latvia. Zdanokas, Gilmans and others are are just poor loosers of 21st century. SHAME ON THEM!

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