québec and canada.

November 24, 2006

nb: although i’m writing this several days after the fact, i have tried to avoid reading overly biased commentary about the following subject until the post is published.

i really wish that i had taken a first-year philosophy course at some point so as to have a greater grasp on the thinkers of the past few millennia. i suppose that this is just another way that foundations at ubc (a now-defunct first-year program) has managed to screw me over.

québec and english canada have had a…difficult…relationship over the past few centuries, coming to a head at expo ’67, when charles de gaulle, president of france, ended the quiet dscf0037.JPGrevolution by shouting “vive le québec libre!” to a raucous crowd assembled below montreal’s city hall. the reaction from ottawa was quick and decisive. prime minister lester b. pearson retorted “canadians do not need to be liberated,” while justice minister (and future prime minister) pierre elliott trudeau questioned what de gaulle would say if a canadian prime minister were to proclaim “brittany for the bretons.” enter rené lévesque’s victory at the national assembly in 1976 and, later, the rise of the bloc québécois in the 1993 federal election, and you pretty much have a country starting to pull apart at the seams.

a few days ago, bloquiste leader gilles duceppe introduced a motion proclaiming québec’s status as a nation. this was largely due to the québec wing of the federal liberal party passing a motion to much the same effect. in doing this, duceppe has ensured his place in the history books of québecois sovereignty movement, getting all three federalist parties to agree with them.

there has been a huge amount of backlash over this. there are many canadians that think that québec is a pain in the side of the federation and that québecois should either accept their place or go back from whence they came.

this attitude is obviously problematic. the québecois cannot leave. this has been their home for 400 years, only the first nations have been there longer. north america had french settlers well before english settlers. regardless of this, a game of pointing fingers doesn’t get anyone anywhere.

to deny that québec is a nation is denying the evident. québecois historically share a common language (french), a common culture, a common religion (roman catholicism) and a common homeland. by comparison, western canada shares virtually none of these points.

here’s a thought: do canadians form a nation? what a question to ask! before one asks that, one must first ask what it means to be canadian (i don’t think that one should be able to consider themselves canadian unless they have seriously thought over that question).

québec is simply playing hardball with ottawa. in this case, they’ve won a very significant moral victory. while duceppe’s resolution may have no bearing on the day-to-day governance of québec, it’s an important point to make; just as forgiveness needs to take place between israelis and palestinians before any serious peace plan is to work, this statement lays the framework of a fair agreement between canada’s two (classical) solitudes.


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