The first major difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada is the language barrier. But languages are not a deciding factor. Firstly, there are many language based communities throughout the world and in Canada. In Canada, there are large Chinatowns (like the one in Toronto, or throughout British Colombia), Aboriginal communities, and the "first and only officially sanctioned Gaeltacht (or 'designated Irish speaking area') to exist outside of Ireland" in Tamworth, Ontario. These communities prove that, with effort, people can maintain and protect their language. To say that Quebec should separate because of it's languages raises questions about these communities. Should they separate because of their language? Most people would say no, because they could not economically sustain themselves. But that just means that Quebec should separate because they have money, which is classist. If Quebec has a real reason to separate, it should be a universal reason that would apply whether or not they have money.
Besides, plenty of functional countries have more than one official language. Belgium, for instance, is 56% Dutch and 38% French (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Belgium). Switzerland is the same way, with around 64% speaking German and 20% speaking French (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland).
Furthermore, speaking French isn't even unique to Quebec. New Brunswick also has French as it's official language, with more than 32% of it's population as native speakers. There are large French speaking populations throughout Canada, even in the Prairies.
Speaking of language minorities, what will happen to English speakers in Quebec? Bills 101, 178 and 22 have proved that there is a level of reactionary anti-English sentiment in some parts of Quebec. If Quebec manages to be a country despite the Aboriginal and English speaking populations (who are largely against separatism), there is no guarantee that the nation of Quebec will give them proper language rights. In fact, these bills suggest that they won't.
Some separatists suggest that Quebec culturally is so different from the rest of Canada and that warrants separation. But that just implies that they want some sort of ideologically purity. We can't be divided because we don't agree on different issues, we should be united on our support for discussion. I've been told that Quebec is 'more left wing' than the rest of Canada. Well North-east USA is more democratic than the Republican South. These sorts of political divisions aren't a reason to be a nation. How is the right-wing so anti-Quebec? Along with political differences, I usually get various examples ranging from "Quebecois drink different, we drive different, we don't like the same clothes or bands". But are clothes, movies, and driving really definitive of a country? A lot of Americans like the Beatles, should they rejoin the Commonwealth? Quebec has more in common with the rest of Canada than separatists like to admit.
Another unfortunate trend amongst some separatists I've met is the need to put down other Canadians to prove Quebec is great. Like the idea that Quebec has a radically different history than the rest of Canada. But this implies that the rest of Canada has the same history. Obviously this doesn't hold water since the Yukon Gold Rush is nothing like the Winnipeg Riots or Newfoundland under British rule. And that doesn't mean that they should separate, either. Seattle has a different history than New York, and there is no separatist movement going on there. Of course Quebec has a distinct history. But a lot of that history is interacting with what would be other parts of Canada.
Of course there are differences between Quebec and the rest of Canada, but they don't warrant separation. Sure Quebec has it's own legal system. But so does Louisiana in the United States (they both use French legal code). And of course the Quebecois have been mistreated (the conscription debate was just such an example). But so have the Aboriginals, Ukrainian and Japanese-Canadians.
However, one should understand that separatism isn't all Quebec. A lot of French Canadians feel that the rest of Canada doesn't like them. And unfortunately, there is some anti-French sentiment in Canada. A lot of this stems from the reactionary feelings of English Canadians to separatism. We like our country, and are offended when someone else wants to leave. So there are a lot of English Canadians who refuse to learn French, and who think Quebec is too "whiny" (how dare they have opinions!) to stay in Canada. But these are the sort of xenophobic people who don't realize what Quebec has given Canada. McGill is one of Canada's best schools, the national anthem and symbols (beaver, maple leaf) are French Canadian, they are the beginning of 'Canadian' history, Montreal and Quebec City are easily two of our best cities, and some of our best artists are Quebecois (Fran�ois-Xavier Garneau). It's unfortunate how many separatists and racist Anglophones do not realize that Quebec help make Canada. If I were Quebecois and saw some of the angry opinions of these racists, I might consider leaving. Canada is Quebec's country, too, and they shouldn't be made strangers in it.
These people should realize that Canada would lose so much if Quebec left. There is an obvious correlation between population and success. The top ten most populated nations include the world's superpower (United States) and three rising powers (Brazil, India, China). The more people you have, the better off you are. Quebec is the secondmost populated province in Canada, we would lose 23% of it's population. We can't pretend that we wouldn't be affected negatively.
Finally, whatever problems exist in Canada, they should be looked at with a positive outlook. Separatists could easily become some of the greatest political minds in Canada. They see all the fundamental problems with this country, but instead choose to run away from them by separating rather than trying to fix them.
We are the villains of our own history. Unlike the Vietnamese or the Polish, Canadians have never had to fight off some foreign power in our modern history. Sure we were in the World Wars, but Germany was not an immediate threat. And Canada never fought the British like the Americans. Our greatest tragedies were committed by Canadians onto other Canadians. Because of this, the true enemy to Canada isn't the Axis or terrorism, but racial barriers. We don't need to rise up against some imperialist power, we need to learn to accept one another. By Quebec staying in Canada, it proves that we can overcome racism, language barriers and the burden of history.
Lets start by attacking this issue more broadly. What is the legitimate function of a state in the first place? In 1941 Canada signed the Atlantic Charter, setting forth a series of universal rights the aims allies were fighting for in the 2nd World War.
That charter contained a provision recognize a right to self determination. Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;
The language is similar to the later UN Charter. That people's choose a government under which they will live. "A people" is generally used for a group of people who share a common territory, common language, common race, common ethnic descent and a common history. The French speaking population of Quebec meets that criteria. The population of Canada does not.
And this goes back to the division of Europe. the Peace of Westphalia (http://en.wikipedia.org...). Westphalia established the idea that nation-states are the natural form of top tier government. States formed by people's that do not view each other as belonging to the same nation tend to naturally divide on key issues and that creates terrible problems particularly with respect to foreign policy where foreign interests can play on natural divisions. Canada has, as you have mentioned, a rather blessed existence. The question is do you want to create structural weakness on the assumption that will never change?
States that are not nation state are like empires or colonies. The people who live in the state do not view their rulership, as belong to their tribe / nation and thus fundamentally don't see the "we are all in this together". And thus the leadership when they need obedience must compel it through violence. The entire moral justification for rejection colonization is asserting the idea that people, nations should be self governing so that the state is a voluntary association of people that want to form a government to advance their common interests. Obviously to do that, you have to believe you have common interests.
That is quite simply if the people of Quebec view themselves as Québécois and not Canadian, English Canada is engaging in colonialism. There are good arguments for colonialism, there are good arguments for empires. But those sorts of political structures on balance are worse than nation states.
Obviously if Québécois agreed to assimilate their culture away, to become part of the English speaking Nation there wouldn't be a problem. Obviously if the Québécois did not view themselves as a separate nation but just a group of Canadians that speak French there wouldn't be a problem. The entire Con case is written ignoring the key issue. Québécois do not now, nor have they ever considered themselves part of English Canada, part of that Nation nor have they ever wanted to form a common state with that nation.
So these issues like Québécois have different food, have different language, different culture but so what? The so what is that is exactly the stuff that binds people together and makes political unions work. As you pointed out in your example the North East of the United States and the South East of the United States politically are very different. But because they share a common heritage, and a common culture when NY was hit by Bin Ladin it was people in the South East who rushed off to fight.
Lets take an example. Canada is part of the British Empire. English speaking Canada still recognizes Queen Elizabeth, a foreign Queen as its head of state. English speaking Canada doesn't even have a hostile attitude towards remembrances of its having been a colony. The French speaking population of Canada are the descendants of the losers of the seven year war, Elizabeth is not their rightful queen she's a symbol of their humiliation. When people relate to the core symbols of their nation in opposite ways in undermines the very loyalties towards that county. The emotional connection needed for the glue to hold societies together.
The question is not fundamentally should Quebec separate but rather should Canada remain essentially an empire or should it be allowed to transform into 2 natural Nation-States with the advantages of Nation states? You gave two examples of multi-language communities Belgium and Switzerland. Both of which are disasters.
Belgium has had ethnic tensions since approximately 1477, when people have tried to glue the state together. For the last 50 years the only thing holding the country together has been a loose federalism. The Flemish separatist part consistently polls well about 38% of the vote even with this loose confederation.
In Switzerland the tension has lasted longer. The last time a vote was allowed to take place, in 1919, 81% of the Germans in the Vorarlberg region voted to join Austria. To handle this problem Switzerland has formed a confederate federal government. For centuries the government has been unable to count on deep loyalty of the various cantons towards the central government.
I don't see how either Belgium or Switzerland show anything than the intrinsic problems of building non nation states. Belgium and Switzerland are artifacts of the Europe of the middle ages when territories were joined based on nobles not peoples.
In terms of the issues of intermixing of languages and the various territories. That's a good issue we can discuss that at length in the how best to divide, if English and French Canada choose to divide. If it is a peaceful division, which I suspect there would be, there is no reason for it to follow provincial boundaries rather it should follow people. If not, what typically happens in these sorts of divisions is ethnic cleansing to one degree or another to make the population less intermixed. And that one time trauma helps to unify the new nation. English speakers won't have language rights in French Canada and visa versa. That nonsense is for holding an empire together nation states can handle language in a very casual kind of way.
Finally in terms of separation reducing GDP the issue is per capita GDP not total GDP. And there isn't a strong connection between large countries and high per capita GDP.
So your main points are that nations are best as groups of similar people, and anything beyond can lead to colonialism or structural weakness. Therefore, it's best for English Canada and Quebec to separate so that they can both be stronger nations, however, they should divide based upon language demographics.
The idea that Canada is 'colonizing' Quebec doesn't hold up because there were two referendums. The Canadian government allowed Quebec to choose whether or not it should separate and the results were always a little under 50%. A colonial government would not even allow such a vote in the first place and there is no evidence that the Canadian government wouldn't have respected a separatist outcome. French Canada has been protected by the Canadian constitution. Students can demand to be taught in French or English anywhere in the country, for instance. These are not the traits of a colonial power.
And not all people in Quebec want separatism, anyway. In the most recent referendum, 49.42% of the population wanted to separate (but there was controversy that some of the anti-separatist votes were discarded), the number in a recent poll is about 41%. And in the recent election, the Bloc Quebecois lost it's federal party status when it lost 43 of it's seats in the House of Commons. So if Quebec did separate according to provincial boundaries, it wouldn't even properly achieve stability because it would be so radically divided.
You did offer the solution of making the borders according to demographics, but this couldn't work because many of the cities are split up. Quebec City, the capital, it mostly anti-separatist with large chunks of yes votes. How do you properly divide up a city? "Except for areas of First Nations peoples, the "No" vote was concentrated in urban ridings." So if Quebec did separate just according to demographics, either it's two major cities would be split up or one would be lost (if we go by majority, which isn't really fair as I will get to later) and Quebec would lose it's main urban areas. That doesn't seem like a healthy prospect for a nation, either.
If it went strictly by demographics cities would be torn up, so you might suggest just having a vote for the whole city. But if we follow the 1995 referendum map, that would mean Quebec City would be lost but Montreal would stay. But even this creates problems. You can't just change the Canadian voting system which relies on ridings to fit a certain situation.
But even if we forgot about the technical problems of dividing Quebec up, why should we forgo the rights of English speakers in Quebec? Wouldn't doing away with their rights be the same sort of colonialism they accuse Canada of proliferating?
And I agree about the Queen and the monarchy. But most Canadians do not support the monarchy anyway. 59% said they didn't care about the Queen's visit. "An Angus Reid poll just after the Queen's visit found that 36% of Canadians want Canada to remain a monarchy, 30% prefer having an elected head of state". And around 40% want to have a referendum. If the Canadian government was willing to reform and do away with the monarchy in order to establish Canada as separate from the English conquerors of Montreal, this should appease some anti-royalists.
So it seems that making a new, multicultural Canada without a monarchy is a better solution than just slicing Quebec up. Multicultural societies can work, as Argentina, the USA and Australia prove.
You also mention 'common interests'? What exactly are some of the interests of Quebec that are so threatened by 'Canadian interests'? Since obviously the constitution proves that there is no active discrimination against French Canadians, and anyone who does can be punished by law. They're given language rights, education rights and rights to form separatist parties which strictly advocate for them and them alone. The other provinces do not have federal parties entirely dedicated to the interests of their own province.
Nice response, thank you for the post. I'm glad we are making progress that the real issue is one of nationality. The key point regarding colonization was to address the "culture doesn't matter" type issues. I'm arguing culture is a lot of what the whole game is about.
In terms of colonization, I can see the objection to the word. Let me just start off by saying many colonial situations have strong support from the local population. That's not uncommon. Colonization is about money, the later stage of ongoing widespread repression is extremely expensive. If that were the norm, or even common, colonization wouldn't make financial sense. Generally colonization looks like a financial confederation where one nation directs the economics of another nation, for mutual benefit.
Even in famous cases there isn't the degree of widespread dislike for colonization I think you are picturing. For example at the time of the American Revolution essentially 1/3rd of the population wanted independence, 1/3rd wanted to remain in the empire and 1/3rd were indifferent. Had their been a referendum, with campaigning and minor concession from the British they could have turned a good chunk of that neutral 1/3rd against the revolutionaries and won the referendum easily. English-Canada in handling Quebec choose a better strategy that doesn't prove a different objective. As an aside, a good chunk of the English speaking population in Quebec are the descendants of that 1/3rd of of Americans loyal to the British that had sided with them in the war and had to flee after.
As fas drawing the border, its a national thing not a political thing. Québécois that would rather be part of Canada can be integrated easily into the nation-state of Quebec were it to go independent. Having a different political opinion doesn't cause someone to not be part of French Canadian culture. A different culture is a different way of conceiving of politics, the fact that the Quebec arguments for independence seem stupid irrational to you, is precisely the signs that you are looking at a cultural division.
I'll address the practical issues you raised below. But the key is this. Once we agree that the Québécois are a nation, the issue becomes what should the nation do in their situation. There are a few basic options.
1) Lose more territorial integrity and move from a nation in a federation with English-Canada to a minority culture in English Canada. Identify as French Canadian (Canadien français) not Québécois. That's essentially the affirmative case you presented. Its also what you are advocating for in the comparison with the United States or Argentina. That's assimilation not biculturalism. So what you are asking from them is national suicide that is to voluntarily cease existing as a nation. Moreover for this not to become an unstable alliance, as per the examples of Belgium and Switzerland we talked about, they would want to intermix, intermarry which means to cease to exist voluntarily even as a culture. America assimiliates away culture, it doesn't preserve it. What you want is a lot to ask.
So what you've failed to point out is anything that a united Canada offers that justifies this cost of moving from a nation to a minority to a historical record. This is my big challenge for you in round 3. Just to put to rest the option of Canada has having a "bilingual identity", English Canada has no real desire for that. After decades of government encouragement and subsidy 9% non Quebec Canadians speak French. English Canada has proven that they do not consider unity a high priority. They just aren't willing to actually adopt a bicultural ideal and won't without extensive intermarriage.
2) The next option would be to separate peacefully with strong integration with Canada. This would look like an enhanced federalism with stronger cultural protection measures than exist today. English Canada won't go much further on cultural protection. But a independent Quebec can go much further in protecting the national culture and can do so long term. As you are writing your round 3, I'd ask you to contrast this federated model.
3) Genuine independence where Quebec thinks and acts like an independent country with a desire for trade but not tight relations with English-Canada. This is something most Québécois are not asking for, but it is the usual outcome when nations split. Since we only have one more round I do want to acknowledge that I agree in advance with your likely point that this is a very likely outcome of a split and Québécois need to be aware of that.
Now in terms of the practicalities I agree with your comments regarding separation and referendum. I think the moment has passed for now the Québécois lack the numbers and too many French speaking Canadians identify as French Canadians, voting subtly for option-(1) without realizing quite what they are voting for.
As of today: 75% of all the French speakers live in Quebec. But bilingual people hare already seperated, the issue is unilingual French and English.
Canada has 3.95m French only speakers
Breaking off Quebec and moving populations (if desired) is pretty clean. Most of your arguments were based on the referendum not the underlying culture. I think the data makes the break easy.
I'd just close with interim head NDP Nycole Turmel controversy as evidence of the problem. How can Quebec possibly feel itself part of Canada when a political activity that 80% of all Québécois has engaged in is considered by many English Canadians to be permanent disqualification for office? Even the United States coming off the civil war allowed former confederates to serve and by 1880 you had a former pro-slavery confederate running for Vice President. Are you really sure that English Canada actually wants Quebec, that is Quebec as it really exists?
The main thing is National survival. Basic things like creating a French curriculum in Quebec are still forbidden. In a small provence with 7m people surrounded by over 300m English speaking Canadians and English speaking Americans it takes drastic action to preserve a french culture. That means strong state support for cultural intervention to advance French culture. French schools, French dress, taxes and disincentives for English culture....
Second area is domestic economic policy. English Canada wants a government substantially more right wing than the Québécois. The Québécois do not want to live in the sort of state that English Canada wants to create which is in line with the Anglo-American economic traditions.
The third area is foreign policy. English Canada has a familial relationship with the United States. There is a closeness that creates issues and at the same time creates a strong bond of trust. English Canada has to create artificial distance to prevent itself from being absorbed. French-Quebec would not have that unnatural relationship. It wouldn't have to worry about that sort of absorption. Thus its relationship with the United States would be an exotic foreign country that is naturally in the European sphere ideologically.
The common interests of Quebec do not radically oppose the interests of the rest of Canada. You mentioned that Quebec is more liberal, but then earlier you clearly said "Having a different political opinion doesn't cause someone to not be part of French Canadian culture". So having an extremely different opinion on the status of nationhood won't divide people, but the Conservatives and Liberals will? Political interests won't divide a nation. If anything they reinforce the entire nation's dedication to democracy. So it doesn't matter if Quebec's interests are more liberal than the rest of Canada, just like it doesn't matter if the American South is more conservative than other states. Also realize that Quebec wasn't always more liberal. Quebec used to be rather conservative and religious until the Conscription debate.
How does the French-Canadian interest in preserving their own culture conflict with English-Canada's interest? When it conflicts that means there is something directly opposing it. And I don't see how Canada is opposing French culture. If you mean that some Canadians are indifferent to it, that isn't really bad. Some white people are indifferent to the problems of the black community, some men to the feelings of women. Not actively campaigning for someone is not the same as conflicting their interests.
If Quebec's culture could survive this long, even before the establishment of anti-discriminatory laws, then I don't think it's in any significant threat now. The only thing I can see threatening their culture now is globalization and the popularity of English media. But that can be amended by personal responsibility and possibly a protectionist policy. Other than that, I've yet to see a modern example of how English Canada is subverting Quebec. One could mention the opposition to having French only signs, but that wasn't anti-Quebec as much as it was pro-minority. French culture is strong and resilient, and could thrive in almost any environment.
As for the Nycole Turmel controversy, that isn't really an anti-Quebec sentiment. If anything, it shows that Canadians want Quebec to stay because they're so uncomfortable with separatism. Just like conservatives would be uncomfortable with having a former-communist in their ranks, having a former pro-separatist in a national party can seem iffy. In all honesty, there are plenty of French-Canadians in politics. They make up for 32% of all prime ministers, which is proportional to their population. So this controversy doesn't really prove that there is some opposition towards Quebecois as much as there is opposition to their ideas. I don't think a Texas separatist would be too popular in America, as the Rick Perry controversy proved.
The thing is, you mention colonization but aren't giving me any real examples for as to why Canada is perpetuating it. You admit that Canada isn't actively repressing people because it isn't financially viable, but that because some Quebecois reject being Canadian that it is colonization. There are separatist groups in plenty of countries, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're being colonized.
As for the lack of language integration, I'll admit this was a failure. But I personally am a French student of Irish descent. Just because the curriculum has failed doesn't mean the entire idea of bi/multi-culturalism failed. In major, diverse cities like Toronto there are still "Chinatowns" where people live around people of their own race. That doesn't mean that anti-racism failed. Also consider that world wide there is a growing need for English as the 'international language'. If the rest of Canada spoke, for example, Spanish, I don't think the language split would have been as severe.
Overall, I just think that there is more that unites every other province with Quebec than what divides them. It doesn't mean that Canada cannot undergo reform, like with the monarchy issue you mentioned. Maybe Canada will work better as something similar to the United Kingdom, or a pre-civil war United States. But unless there is a serious repression of French Canadian culture, I really don't see much point to separation.
1) The key issue has been that integration with Canada will lead to the Quebecoise ceasing to exist as a nation and instead merging into an ethnic / linguistic minority. No advantage of that integration has been presented. It has been an assumption throughout that the benefit of integration justify the harms but very few benefits have actually been mentioned and most of those (like confusing GDP and GDP per capita) have been refuted. The result is we have a case which argues for a policy with consented to harms but no clear benefits.
2) The issue that Canada does not represent Quebecoise policies was not addressed. The issues of national construction are key. Currently the most popular party in Quebec is federalist and there official policy is the Sherbrooke declaration: (http://www.pierreducasse.ca...). This document calls for :
That is in all but name a policy to separate peacefully with strong integration. I’d argue given the success of the NDP Quebec is still pushing for some form of loose federation.
3) The issue that separation could be achieved easily was proven. The population statistics were given and not refuted.
4) The analogy with Switzerland and Belgium were accepted throughout this debate and in both cases those unions are highly troubled and mostly unsuccessful.
5) There has been agreement that biculturalism / bilingualism with respect to the English speaking population has been a failure. While the Quebecoise learned English the English-Canadians outside Quebec were disinterested in learning French. Given that biculturalism / bilingualism was the basis of Quebec staying in a unified Nation state I think the negative has been proven.
So... I think the NDP position Asymmetrical Federalism offers some a useful a separation with strong integration and that failing Quebec should move towards full and genuine independence, the two options discussed in round 3.
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