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Dystopia: a dreadfully misunderstood Quebec within Canada

I just finished reading the article entitled “Utopia: A Quebec-free Canada”, and I reflected on those words as I am: a staunch Quebecer, if you will. Naturally, I feel the need to briefly offer a different perspective on this issue because I believe arguments looking black or white too often overhang the shades of grey where comprehension and mutual understanding are possible.

Let me begin by citing the words of Robert Bourassa, the most federalist and nationalist premier Quebec has ever had:

Jusqu’à 1985, on disait: What does Quebec want? Nous avons exprimé clairement les demandes du Québec. […] Donc, depuis 1985, la question est: What does Canada want? …et on attend encore la réponse du Canada à cet égard. Monsieur le président, le Canada anglais doit comprendre de façon très claire que, quoi qu’on dise et quoi qu’on fasse, le Québec est, aujourd’hui et pour toujours, une société distincte, libre et capable d’assumer son destin et son développement. (Speech given at the National Assembly following the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, 1990)

[Translation: Until 1985 we were asked: What does Quebec want? We clearly stated Quebec’s demands… Therefore, since 1985, the question is rather: What does Canada want?… and we are still waiting for Canada’s response. Mister President, Anglophone Canada must understand very clearly that no matter what is said or done, Quebec is today and will forever remain a distinct society, one capable and free to decide of its destiny and its development.  (Speech given at the National Assembly following the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, 1990) ]

This is where federalists and separatists agree. The important point is that “no matter what is said or done,” to use the Liberal premier’s words, nationalism is a reality. Ask the British, the French, or the Germans to tell you ‘who they are’, and in their minds the question is simple; and it goes in hand with what they are politically. That is because their countries were formed in a way that is arguably the best solution to modern politics: the nation-state.

What Canada is, on the other hand, is a country founded by two nations, and which has made a commitment (which was formalized by the Québécois nation motion) to respect the distinctiveness of these two nations. In this sort of political setting, secessionism is an idea that will inevitably be alive in some minds. But Quebecers have always been profoundly divided on the question of separation, and to believe that “a significant number of voters will be in favour of separation” in the near future is disregarding the fact that this number has recently been decreasing, and that a similar pattern is affecting the “active and bellicose” youth of Quebec.

Canada has developed a consociational framework in order for its political system to be functional, and it is quite successful if we contrast it with the amount of ethnic conflict and dysfunctional states found around the world. Why one would even think of “how much Canada has to gain from ‘losing’ its francophone province” is mind-boggling to me, as ‘keeping’ and integrating Quebec is probably Canada’s greatest achievement. It should be considered part of Canada’s identity and pride.

Nonetheless, it is understandable that some Canadians might have difficulty understanding why the Québécois believe they form a nation; let them read Gaston Miron. But more importantly, they should remember what the text to which the official motto of the province of Quebec is related says:

 

I remember

That born under the lily

I grow under the rose

 

After over 40 years of debate and two referendums, I think it is safe to say that, indeed, the province “has-never-had-and-probably-never-will” secede. I think we can now trust that the lily and the rose have learned to live and grow together. And if there is such a thing as a “utopian” Canada, this is what it should be all about. 

– Maxime Fecteau

 

(Featured image:DrRandomFactor, Creative Commons, Wikipedia)

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3 comments

  1. As a proud francophone with an English mother who learned French thru the years and a francophone father…I am very proud of my heritage with cousins on both sides of the bilingual spectrum.- I sincerely hope and also believe that this province will never separate even with a separatist Government presently running the show.. but hopefully not for too long.- This beautiful Canadian nation developed with 2 specific nationalities French and English with the signed Confederation of 1867 in Charlottetown and this should never be forgotten

    plus the fact that we were here first ?

    I worked in every provinces of this beautiful country…and was respected …and this what makes Canada such a beautiful nation to live and fight for…and the only sad part I find …is our lack of shown patriotism ….so contrary to the USA.-

    Long live Canada …my beautiful country…

    Robert Bourbonnais

    bob.bourbonnais@gmail.com

  2. Maxime, saying that Britain or France are, or even come any close to being nation-states is simply wrong. Have you frogotten about the Irish, the Scotts, the Welsh in Britain ; les Bretons, les Flamands, les Lorrains, et j’en passe en France? Both Britain and France imposed upon their people a common language, national identity and history curriculum to homogenize the population and blur the lines of ethnic differences; but there is no one single nation in either country.

    • Dear Isa,
      I absolutely agree with you. I understand that, today,
      there are social problems associated with the attempt at cultural homogenization that you mention, and I don’t want to diminish these. But the fact that they originated as “nation-states” (with the Peace of Westphalia) and not bi or multi-nation states makes them different from Canada because, I believe, they never had consociational agreements between nations when their political systems were formed. This is why I used the past tense and referred to the “formation” of these states. In other words, my point is that the “myth” of a single national identity on which these states are based makes secessionism – as an idea – very unlikely.

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