Our global refusal,
Our revolutionary manifesto
We are all 20th and 21st century people. Born here and there, we speak thousands of languages. We are rich and poor. Our loves are celebrated and tabooed. Our identities are multiple. Our voices are plural. Our homeland is called Québec and we stand together beyond all boundaries.
We’re visible and yet invisible, seen and yet unseen. We’re stigmatized as ‘disabled’ because our bodies and minds do not conform to the ideal and imperative norm. We fight for acknowledgement of our visible and yet often unseen differences so that we may live without having to cope with the oppressive and exhausting task of conforming to standards of performance imposed upon us.
We acknowledge that ableism is a system favouring oppression that is based on a hierarchy of abilities defined as ‘normal and required’. We are aware of, and experience, various oppressive systems, including racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
The authorities generally define a disability as an abnormal physical and mental behaviour. We wish to stress that the concept of normality is a human invention that appeared at the beginning of the 19th century when statistics came of age. The tragedy that strikes us, ‘the disabled’, does not reside in the condition of our bodies or that of our spirits, it arises from our being oppressed, excluded and marginalized as a result thereof. Even today. We are not asking to be ‘standardized’ or to be ‘normalized’. We do not want, nor do we require, charity. We do not want to be saved.
We have been marginalized throughout history. We remember the institutional homes. We remember the forced sterilisation. We remember the freak shows. We remember the cities built without considering us, thus disabling the free exercise of our citizenship. We are trying to discover our history. It is now starting to be taught in university lectures and we know that someday it will appear in the history books. We’re aware of the fact that members of marginalized groups have, at certain points in History, been looked upon as inferior physically and mentally, in regard to the heterosexual white male norm. We remember that these groups have rejected the stigma of disability, thus allowing history to consider that a disability reasonably leads to exclusion or marginalization. We come together because we are often marginalized amongst other marginalized groups and because we strongly believe that there is a need for the creation of a truly socially inclusive movement for the elimination of all forms of oppression and discrimination.
We acknowledge the work performed by thousands of us which has aimed at making Québec an inclusive society. We acknowledge the achievements and progress achieved during the last forty years. But despite any current achievements and progress, we have no choice but to realize that our basic rights are still being infringed. And that our right to participate, to partake in community life and social activities are constantly being threatened and are often hanging by a thread.
We remember a time when we took to the streets in protest. We remember a time when we believed that future generations would not have to fight for the things we were, and are still, fighting for. We realize that the Quiet Revolution was a little too quiet for us. We never had our revolution.
We are travelling more and more outside Québec and are finding out that Québec can change, that there can be a new Québec. Our trips abroad bring us a little comfort and hope. We are now certain that our marginalization is not ‘normal’ even though it is more often than not deemed to be.
We challenge the segregation that is keeping us in inferior positions. This obvious yet subtle segregation creates a societal context in which it is difficult for us to question ourselves and to join forces in order to reply, react and protest.
Our community is founded on deep and courageous ramifications.
Our ideas and our principles are both local and universal.
The limits of our dreams become no longer what they were.
Our duty is simple. We stand together in our refusal.
Refusal to be knowingly segregated in separate systems. Refusal to ignore socially sponsored acts of exclusion. Refusal to remain silent under the pretence that our ideas are injurious to harmony and understanding of disability rights movement. Refusal to standardize our bodies and our minds in order to foster the emergence of a culture that values disability rather than stigmatizing it as being something negative and tragic. Refusal to patiently and naively wait for our turn, in a context of cut governmental spending.
If our activities increase, it is because we feel the urgent need for solidarity.
We share our different fighting strategies. We create a space so that together, we can change Québec.
We, disabled activists or identified as such, get together with our allies to create a space where we can freely support each other, react, show up, respond and celebrate life. We join forces to pave the way to make Québec an inclusive nation. We hereby undertake to strive to promote inclusion by every conceivable non-violent means of action and resistance. We have chosen to no longer condone the intolerable.
We have elected to speak of exclusion because it is imperative to do so if we are to understand the concept of inclusion. We do not seek to stir up any discord between ourselves and our partners and friends, but rather to join and thereby to enrich associations representing disabled people by offering to give them an original, far-reaching and united voice.
Let those who are inspired by this endeavour join us!
Until then, without surrender or rest, in community of feeling with those who thirst for better life, without fear of set-backs, in encouragement or persecution, we shall pursue in joy our overwhelming need for liberation.
We’re writing our own tale, we’re making history on our own. We’re organizing our own Revolution. We sign and seal our Refus Global.
Laurence Parent, for the RAPLIQ
*The italics used herein mark quotes from the Refus Global Manifesto authored by Paul-Émile Borduas and published in 1948. This artistic Manifesto challenged traditional values and rejected the status quo then prevailing in Québec society. Sixty-two years later, we unite and share the author’s fervour and firm belief: we are in need of a revolution.