The Empire Within: Postcolonial Thought and Political Activism in Sixties Montreal
The the Empire Within:
Postcolonial Thought and Political Activism in Sixties Montreal (Studies on the History of Quebec / Etudes D'histoire Du Quebec)
by Sean Mills
McGill-Queen's University Press
$29.95 List Price
In September 1966, the militant Quebec separatists Pierre Vallières and Charles Gagnon, wanted by Canadian police for a spate of bombings, came out of hiding to issue a statement at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. Quebecers were, they declared, an oppressed group whose struggles mirrored the decolonization efforts of subjected peoples worldwide. Calling for Quebec independence and the release of political prisoners, they vowed to stage a hunger strike. It was short-lived: New York police arrested the men the next day.
During the years of imprisonment that followed, Vallières wrote furiously, penning what would become the signal radical text of its time in Quebec: The White Niggers of America. Part memoir and part manifesto, the book took its cue from Malcolm X. Vallières argued that French-Canadian workers, like American blacks, had been exploited for centuries as cheap labor within an Anglo-American capitalist system. The time had come to unite and throw off their chains—by any means necessary.
Revolutionary delusion? Self-indulgent fantasy? Not entirely, argues Sean Mills in The Empire Within. Inequalities in 1960s Quebec were real and searing. "Although francophones comprised the vast majority of Quebec's population, they controlled only 20% of its economy," writes Mills. The average male anglophone earned 50 percent more than did his French-Canadian counterpart. Two centuries after Wolfe beat Montcalm in the Battle of Quebec, the conquest of French Canada by Britain struck many as a living legacy, inscribed in the geography of Montreal. Meanwhile, American