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:
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-
– Maxime Fecteau
(Featured image:DrRandomFactor, Creative Commons, Wikipedia)