Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Nation" question trips up Lib Leaders again

Let yesterday's debate in Quebec City serve as a rebuttal to anyone that would suggest Meech Lake is a dead issue. In fact, this question of "Nation" - which for our purposes is synonymous with "Distinct Society" - is fast replacing Adscam as the key issue in Quebec. Thus, it is alarming to read our candidates' responses. Most, it would seem, played dangerous games.

[Disclaimer - at this point I only have this Globe and Mail article to base my post upon. As such, I recognize that some context is probably lost]

Bob Rae, firstly:

"I always supported the notion that Quebec . . . is a nation, it is a distinct society, which we need to recognize in our Constitution and I have fought for that," Mr. Rae said. "The genius behind federalism is that we can be both a Quebecker and a Canadian."

This is typical fare from Rae. This is his true North, and we have every reason to believe it is a central element of his platform. The last sentence raises questions, particularly. It is difficult to deny, but what is its relevance to constitutionally enshrining Quebec's Nationhood? If Quebec is a province, then everyone in Quebec can be both Quebeckers and Canadians. Genius indeed. But if Quebec is a Nation - which is to say, if the province of Quebec is handed over lock and stock to the French Quebecois Nation - then we forfeit that phenomenon. Haitians, Mohawks, Cree no longer qualify as Quebeckers because they don't fit the National profile. Suddenly, the personage of Quebec is divided between Quebecois and Canadian. This is federalism failed.

Now Dion:

Mr. Dion argued the recognition of Quebec as a nation should not give the province any privileges. There would always be debates and friction in a country as diversified as Canada, he argued, and recognizing Quebec as a nation would serve to reinforce Canada's diversity. "Let us not allow the separatists to dramatize our disagreements and squash our successes," Mr. Dion said.

Mme. Dion takes a safer tack. The direct quote at the end resonates very well. In fairness, however, the Meech Lake process that Dion supports did exactly what he warns against. It extinguished the success - or the perception of success - that should've accompanied the introduction of the Charter. It dramatized our disagreements on a truly cinematic scale.

I must also disagree vigorously when he suggests that "recognizing Quebec as a nation would serve to reinforce Canada's diversity [not his words]." Recognizing the Franco Nation that exists within Quebec would do so. But what we're talking about is specifically and exclusively recognizing that Nation at the expense of the other Nations, the other peoples that share Quebec. This is not to mention the Franco Nation outside of Quebec, which also stands to lose in recognition.

Finally, Martha Hall Findlay:

"I have difficulty with the word nation. . . . We need more discussion about this," Ms. Hall-Findley said.

I am not prepared to crow with pleasure at this, as may be expected. Once again, I allow that she obviously said more than this and I don't know what it was. However, while she is right in doubting the word, her approach is exceptionally dangerous. One is left with the impression that she isn't yet willing to be so generous. This cannot be our message. Our mission is not to withold from the Quebecois. Our mission is to listen to the small voices in Quebec. When we refuse to equate "Nation" with the province of Quebec, we need to do so with a detailed explanation of our motivations. We do so on behalf of diversity, and that must be made crystal clear.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what is odd...

Kennedy rsvp'd for the broke down 3 hours before and he said he couldn't make it. He was 1.5 hours away!

Where is the discussion of ideas...!?!

I know not every candidate can make every debate, but don't give the illusion that you will go and are for ideas...

a no show is a no good!

9:51 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I wrote a whole long response but basically you said it well.

I have to ask what of French-Canadians outside of Quebec and I have to agree emphatically that this process does in fact obscure the successes of 1982, even beyond the charter, which one should wonder what place would be given to it in this scheme, if Meech Lake is to be the template.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

But certainly one can be a Quebecker AND a Canadian in the current system. Those on our side of this have never denied that. The successes of Canadian federalism are long but get little attention.

11:37 AM  
Blogger SteelCityGrit said...

Good to have you back

11:51 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

thank ya

5:19 PM  

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