It is not just language and secularism that define Quebec, a society whose values make it unique in North America.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, our collective way of experiencing this ordeal has turned out to be very different from what is happening in the other provinces of Canada.
First, it is in Quebec where we find the highest number of vaccinated in Canada. It is in Quebec where the debate on how to deal with COVID is most open. It is also the place where pro-vaccines and anti-vaccines collide with passion, but also with violence.
Significant support for Legault
Prime Minister Legault is the Canadian politician who receives the most public support. Its directives are respected by a majority of citizens who are not docile, but obedient and actively responsible.
In fact, there seems to be a feeling among Quebecers that they have been well led. In return, they have shown support that exceeds the expectations of political and health authorities.
Quebecers have also shown exemplary and historic patience for several months, agreeing to conform to public health directives, which have continued to change more or less radically.
But in recent months, exhaustion, discouragement and changes of course according to daily figures on new cases have deeply disturbed categories of people now troubled, seized with fear and unable to absorb this unpredictable pace of life.
Prime Minister Legault himself can no longer hide his depression. The umpteenth step backwards, which this time breaks the joy Quebecers dreaded of gathering in groups like in the good old days of traditional Christmas, is a punch to the face and a tear to the heart.
Tolerance gets its way
We are almost tempted to believe that Christmas and the New Year will be sadder, more painful, and more distressing to experience than during the most radical lockdown of the past year. Tolerance leaves the camp. The antivaxes are the object of popular anger. “Let them die,” said a more moderate friend of mine around me. “Let them pay for health care like in Singapore,” a finance specialist in her forties told me whose legendary energy is leaving her panicking for fear of contracting the virus, despite having two vaccinations and waiting for the third.
In English Canada, we are fatalists, while in Quebec, too many people believed in a return to normal life. In other words, pessimists have an advantage in this pandemic, which in turn devastates our certainties, our hopes and our way of believing that “tomorrow cannot be worse.”
Okay, yes. Optimism is a poison that undermines us. It is a miracle that the Legault government has so far reassured us. We spent this vacation like a wound. We suffer collectively and personally. Because there is still something very close in the depths of Quebec. But Canadian phlegm and a touch of doom somehow protect English Canada like water flowing over a duck’s back.
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