Around the world No.1

In Canada, in a bold move Prime Minister, and leader of a minority Conservative government, Stephen Harper has offered the constitutional amendment with front-runner Michael Ignatieff in favour but others unhappy. However, to prevent the issue developing further Harper has proposed a parliamentary motion recognising that “the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada”. This move provides recognition but does not re-open the Canadian constitution.

  • dodrade

    Smart move by Harper, provides a sop to nationalists without really meaning anything.

    Also i’d like to say that Quebec and the Quebecois are not the same thing. The motion defines the Quebecois people as a nation, not the province itself, as 20% of the population, including Anglophones, First Nations, Inuit and immigrants are not Quebecois.

  • joeCanuck

    Dodrade has hit the nail on the head, There is a huge difference between saying that the Quebecois are a nation and that Quebec is a nation.
    But, like N.I. , expect the squabbling to go on.

  • KB

    Why can’t these people be happy being part of Canada? Canada is an incredibly multicultural country. Are we going to offer every single group with cultural differences a chance to have a “nation within our nation”. Why can’t we all just be happy being Canadian (whether it’s French-Canadian, Irish-Canadian, Italian-Canadian, or from wherever your ancestors originated)

    Multiculturalism is fantastic and teaches all of us to be tolerant. But if being Canadian is not enough, perhaps a move to another country might be in order….good luck finding one as tolerant as Canada.

  • pondersomething

    Watching the CBC News this morning, there does seem to be a lot of confusion as to what this motion actually means.

    Does it recognise the Province of Quebec as a “nation”, or merely the 80% Francophone part of Queb ec?

    If the former, how come the 20% minority get no say? And what about the numerous French speakers spread across all the other Provinces, not least New Brunswick?

    If the latter, does this not elevate one narrowly defined ethnic group (i.e. francophone quebecois) over all other ethnic groups?

    Not least, where do the First Nations stand in all this? One of Harper’s most disgraceful acts was to renounce the Kelowna Accord with the Assembly of First Nations, negotiated by his predecessor as Prime Minister.

    And now, for purely selfish reasons of parliamentary arithmetic and political gain in Quebec he has chosen to accord Quebecers/Quebecois a higher status of parliamentary recognition than that even accorded to the First Nations, who were, after all, there for millenia before the French, the English and all other immigrants arrived.

    So, this motion makes me worried as it does seem to undermine what is so fantastic about Canada – it’s multiculturalism, and shared Canadian values of pluralism, inclusiveness, equal citizenship and tolerance.

  • Arkuda

    A word of caution: “Quebecois” is a word that has been used for propaganda purposes to lead people to believe that anyone not of French origin is not “Quebecois”.

    Reality has more nuance than this. “Quebecois” is French word. The proper translation in English is Quebecer. I have British and Polish roots. I am nevertheless a Quebecer and a believer in Quebec’s sovereingty. All people living in Quebec are Quebecers, or “Quebecois” if you wish, no matter their ethnic or linguistic backgrounds, roots or political opinions. Whether they agree with me or not.

    In that sense, I am also Canadian, whether I like it or not.

  • dodrade

    Whilst Quebecois does simply mean Quebecer in english, most people would understand it to mean the francophone population of Quebec. Of course the ambiguity of the term is probably why Harper chose it so everyone can read into it what they want, though it will have little real consequence.

  • Arkuda

    Dodrade,

    I am uncomfortable with the use of “Quebecois” in Harper’s resolution since it introduces an ethnic undertone to the recognition of Quebec as a nation, which has never been endorsed by the Parti Quebecois, nor by the vast majority of people in Quebec, to this matter.

    I personally couldn’t care less: what constitutes a nation is a sociological and cultural fact and we all know that governments and constitutions are laggards in such matters.

    In other words, I am not waiting for Harper or anyone else to tell me that Quebec is a nation.

    Whilst it is true that 82 % of Quebec’s population are the descendants of the French settlers who came to New France in the the sixteenth and seventeenth century, there has been a lot of intermarriages since with British and Irish settlers, Native Indians and the Metis and more recently with immigrants from around the world, of all faith and religion – as is the case in modern industrialized nations.

    This explains why people like Maka Kotto and Joseph Facal, respectively of African and Chilean origins and Bernard Cleary, a Native Indian, among others, joined Parti Quebecois’ ranks, Quebec’s largest sovereignist party – but by no means the only one.

    While it is also true that the largest ethnic community in Quebec is the French Canadian, not all Quebecers are French Canadians and there are French Canadians outside of Quebec – Acadians among others – some of whom never set foot in Quebec.

    For instance, there are French speaking Lebanese, Vietnamese, Arabs and Sefardic Jews in Quebec; They are not French Canadian – at least in the ethnic sense of the word – yet they are all Quebecers or Quebecois, if you wish.

    A society is a nation when it considers itself a nation. The vast majority of Quebecers – or Quebecois if you prefer – consider that Quebec forms a nation, no matter if a slight majority of the same people believes in the Canadian Federation. Even if a very small group disagrees or is otherwise umconfortable with this sociological fact, in reason of its own political agenda.

    Quebec is a political identity. Not an etnic one.

    I agree with you that Harper’s resolution has no real legal consequence. This would require a constitutional amendment. From a political point of view, it remains to be seen. As of yesterday,
    the Liberal Party of Canada chose a new leader, Stephane Dion – who would have guessed ? – who always opposed Quebec’s recognition as a nation.

    Smart move, as you say, from Harper’s Conservative Party in power to manoeuver between the Liberals and the sovereignist Bloc Quebecois at the House of Commons.

    This explains why the Bloc Quebecois voted for the resolution along with Harper.