Canada

Bloc targeting ethnic vote

The Bloc Quebecois is actively targeting the ethnic vote, as a number of young immigrant voters are expected to support the sovereigntist cause this election. <P

The Bloc Quebecois is actively targeting the ethnic vote as a number of young immigrants are expected to support the sovereigntist cause this election.

"It's not an anti-Canada movement or anti-English anymore," said Apraham Niziblian, a young Armenian Quebecer who is running as a Bloc candidate. It's a pro-Quebec thing, for the Quebec people, we see that our interests are better represented by our own."

Immigrants make up about 10 per cent of Quebec's population of seven million. Their votes used to go almost exclusively to federalist parties.

In 1995, they voted strongly against sovereignty. But with an influx of new young immigrants who have grown up on French, things have changed.

"This new immigrant vote that is now voting for the Bloc mostly comes from francophone countries, mostly Arabic, some Latin American, and most of them are fairly young voters; they are the children of Bill 101 taught in French schools in Quebec," said Christian Bourque of Leger Marketing.

For example, for the Jan. 23 election, the BQ is looking at the 75,000 Quebecers who have Haitian roots. Most of them are francophone and live in Montreal.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe has called on Haitian Quebecers Vivian Barbot and Justine Charlemagne to run in two Montreal ridings.

"I think there is this nostalgia, this political nostalgia of fighting for one's nation," said Mahalia Verna, a Haitian Quebecer. "And I think a lot of Haitians identify with that desire to be a sovereign state."

Many young Haitian Quebecers educated here were influenced by their sovereigntist classmates But some Haitian Quebecers insist the Bloc embraces diversity only to advance its cause.

"I'm not sure they would offer me everything they would offer to the average Quebecois white," said Keder Hyppolite of the National Council of Citizens of Haitian Origin.

Most immigrants still favour federalism.

Maro Akoury, who was born in Lebanon, grew up in Quebec speaking French and even flirted with the idea of sovereignty at university.

"The campaign is about letting people know that the issue of sovereignty, the issue of separation, is outdated. It is a fantasy," said Akoury, who's running for the Liberals in St. Jean sur Richelieu.

She argues immigrants should think twice about supporting the sovereignty movement.

"People flew from dictatorships, from poverty, from instability, and now they are opting for an option that will put families at war?"