Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Convention 2006

Here's hoping for a great convention. Cheers.

Dion and Lester Pearson

Here's the more logical interpretation of Lester Pearson's legacy on the national unity file, that probably wouldn't surprise anyone but is worth quoting:

Under considerable political duress, Pearson accepted reluctantly a fair degree of administrative decentralization for social programs in areas of provincial responsibility...At no time did Pearson ever contemplate constitutionalizing this process of administrative devolution or asymmetrical federalism. [He was] an ardent Canadian nationalist, a clear-sighted internationalist, and a defender of national unity. Pearson's policies and practices in federal-provincial relations must be placed in the larger context of such pan-Canadian achievements as Medicare...and the Canadian flag.

A revisionist interpretation of Pearson's handling of the Quebec question has been proposed...arguing that Pearson became a strong proponent of the two-nations theory of Confederation. Even more importantly, Pearson developed into a supporter of a Canada-Quebec conception of territorial duality because Quebec, in his view, constituted the homeland of the francophone nation...[Ken] McRoberts concludes that the Pearson years constituted a promising golden era in Canada-Quebec relations, and that it was destroyed almost singlehandedly by his successor, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. ...Unforunately, Canada did not continue down Pearson's road....This interpretation has gained the support of [Quebecois academics] such as Guy Laforest and Stephane Dion...who champion the entrenchment of an asymmetrical Quebec-Canada federation in order to accommodate Quebec's political and constitutional distinctness.

-Michael D. Behiels, Lester B. Pearson and the Conundrum of National Unity, 1963-1998

This perspective has perhaps escaped proper national attention.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dryden/Volpe/Findlay of one mind?

Although she seems to have softened her position, was not Martha Hall Findlay initially the only leadership candidate to refuse any recognition of a Quebecois nation, however qualified? If nothing else, she seems profoundly uncomfortable with the idea.

That would make 3 out of the 4 also-rans (somewhat) natural Kennedy backers, no? That's got to mean something. Surely Dryden and Volpe, at least, could not go to Dion now. They both voted against the tide to defeat his bill.

This is to say nothing of all those Trudeauvian federalism who understand now how limited their protest options are.

The Globe article that gives Dion momentum down the home stretch is about 36 hours out of date, as far as I'm concerned.


A wonderful by-election result in London last night! Dianne Haskett was vaulting into 'most hateable Canadian politician' status but had her momentum stomped. In the climate change-less Xanadu that was her recent home of Washington DC, she never could've dreamed she would be bested by the Green candidate. The NDP was ravaged, and why not? They are markedly less necessary today then are the Greens.

Monday, November 27, 2006

enough said

I just turned CPAC on for no longer than 2 minutes. During that time I heard Peter MacKay refer to Canada's "Two founding nations" and stress that "it [the Quebecois nation] goes way beyond language and culture." Do we need any more evidence that this is an ill-conceived, poorly defined, exlcusive and regressive motion? If we want to do symbolic politics right, the only answer to this is no.

Gerard Kennedy has done a great thing for a lot of Liberals.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

enter young foxes

Say whatever you want about this leadership race, but if nothing else that is a Liberal future to be thrilled with.

Friday, November 24, 2006

alternative dug up

In the course of some thesis-related research I came across a constitutional preamble proposed by the federal delegation to a constitutional committee in June 1980.

It contained recognition of Canada's "distinct French-speaking society centred in though not confined to Quebec." Wordy, yes, but it hits on all fronts. "Nation" can be substituted for "society" without altering its meaning.

It says what Harper's motion wishes to say, without relying on a unarticulated redefinition of words like "Quebecois" and "Quebecker".

nationhood denied - the nation motion process

There is an element to the Harper/Dion "nation" clause that I think is being missed. Regardless of its substance, painstakingly analyzed, the process itself is inherently exclusive and denies recognition to Canada's other marginalized identities.

Yesterday, I had the fortune to discuss the development with about 10 Mohawks and Onondagas from the Six Nations of the Grand River. The consensus in the room was that waking up to "PM Recognizes Quebec as a Nation" headlines amounted to a "kick in the teeth." It's an interesting perspective coming from those who understand better than most the importance of nation and recognition. But it's not difficult to understand.

The ongoing occupation at Caledonia was engineered for two reasons, essentially. Firstly it was to assert a legal land claim. Secondly, along with all other collective action of the Six Nations, it served to demonstrate in clear and unequivocal terms the Iroquois remain nations, and that Canada has no choice but to reconcile itself with this fact.

How did Canada respond? The federal government didn't go anywhere near the Six Nations. They downloaded their responsibilities to the province, which by its nature could not conduct nation-to-nation negotitations. The province, in turn, characterized the issue as one of policing.

Canada deals with nations; Ontario polices Ontarians. The actions of both levels of government obliterated the national claim.

One women told a particularly troubling story. Her son was on the occupation site for six months. Because his role was first aid, he carried a two-way radio on him at all times. Caledonians discovered the frequency, and whispered death threats and racial epithets at him sometimes 24 hours a day. The Canadian national anthem became almost unbearable, because it was hurled at him with such hate from behind clenched teeth at every rally. He - and to this there was general agreement in the room - felt unable to enter any building that flew the Maple Leaf. In his mind, it would also fly next to signs that read "Get a Job You Dirty Indians".

He left the site for another reserve further north. The entire 5 hour train trip there he trembled. He was terrified of the White Canadians passengers.

Contrast this experience to what has transpired in Queen's Park this week. A party committed to the dissolution of the Canadian state introduced a motion that would recognize one nation at the expense of other identities. The Prime Minister himself responded with a tweaked motion that didn't necessarily pose as great a threat to individuals outside the nation. We scramble over ourselves to congratulate eachother for demonstrating yet again our tolerance for diversity. We might have our differences, all agree, but we are part of one big family.

Not only does the motion lack clarity and prudence, it reinforces a very old model under which Canada is defined by conversations between English and French. Someone will point out that nothing in the motion inherently denies the nationhood of First Nations. This is not the point. And neither have we solved the problem by adding an aboriginal footnote to sweeten the pill, as per Charlottetown. If we are to wade into such extraordinarily important and delicate discussions - because we are writing the national character of Canada, as well as Quebec - then it cannot be done ad hoc. It cannot be done simply to appease the one group that is able to make the most noise. It's offensive, and we should be beyond it.

-Mike (SCG)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Quebecois VS Quebec: meaningful compromise?

If the motion tabled by Stephen Harper is representative of Stephane Dion's compromise, I'm heartily disapointed.

In brief, the motion is purportedly superior to Bloc/Quebec Liberal motions because it defines a nation of Quebecois rather than the nation of Quebec.

I am one of many who argue that a sociological nation is undeniable, but that we run into problems when we confer nationhood on the province of Quebec. The Harper wording purports to solve this problem. How I haven't a clue. A nation of Quebecois can mean only one of two things:

1) 'Quebecois' is intrinsically a territorial denomination. Like "Ontarian" denotes inhabitants of Ontario, it denotes inhabitants of Quebec. If this is the case, no compromise has been made. The nation in question is still the province of Quebec. This is still, assumedly, the mythological civic nation. This motion is identical to the others.

2) 'Quebecois' is used to denote only those that belong to the pur laine sociological nation which is being addressed. If this is the case, where are the rest of the inhabitants of Quebec left? New Canadians, Cree, Mohawks, Anglo are denied full status as participants in the province. Further, French-Canadians outside of Quebec have their claims to nationhood obliterated.

The Harper/Dion compromise is no more worthy or our support than its predecessor motions.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

new treason of old ideas

I'm ultimately glad this essay was written. I did feel that many were taking wild liberties with Trudeau's legacy for their own ends (although I certainly don't include Justin in that company). I also believe that liberties are being taken with Ignatieff's position.

However, does Apps make a convincing case that positions of Ignatieff and Trudeau are entirely reconcilable? The answer is a resounding no.

I wish I had time to take the essay proposition by proposition. I unfortunately do not, so I will comment as succinctly as possible.

This is not synthesis of the two men's ideas that it purports to be. Apps introduces himself as an unrepenting Trudeauite, but his meandering generalization of the Quebec fact often departs Trudeau profoundly. One example I can quickly recall is his discussion of French Canada outside of Quebec. French Canadians, according to Apps, understand that the best guarantor of their "founding nation" status is the heaping of recognition upon the province of Quebec. What is this, if not Trudeauvia repented? Just one example of many.

The meat of the piece hovers over the question of "ethnic" vs "civic". Apps reminds us that Trudeau believed in building civic nationalism as a tool to curb the ethnic variety. Fair enough. However, in noting that "all rational thought depends on the ability to draw useful distinctions" he fails to distinguish between the civic nation of Canada and the civic nation of Quebec. Trudeau did indeed seek to build civic nationalism in Quebec, but a civic nationalism that regarded Canada as the fundamental civic unit.

Why are we "faux Trudeau acolytes" concerned with the civic nation of Quebec, if civic nationalism implies identityless tolerance? At simplest:
a) Are we deluding ourselves? Trudeau reminded us that nationalists can speak in such liberal, inclusive terms and believe themselves, but the national project carries certain inevitabilities. Before we can believe in a civic nation of Quebec, we need to demonstrate - in real terms, based on who practices nationalism in Quebec, who doesn't, and what each group wants - that there is no inherent identity imbedded in Quebec nationalism. This hasn't been accomplished yet.
b) What purpose does Canada serve the civic nation of Quebec? If Quebec has achieved a perfect political union under which all citizens are Quebecois in equal stead, Canada is only justified on a very shallow basis (short-term economic benefits, etc.).

In other words: a worthy attempt, but I'm not buying it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

no one saw this coming

So the Ontario Anishnabe reserve Pikangikum doesn't have clean running water because of a unique cultural practice. They bury their deceased.

Jim Prentice has creativity - that cannot be denied.

The residents of Pikangikum must be looking forward to finding out why the community school that burned down 40 years ago hasn't yet been replaced. Perhaps the Ojibwa cultural propensity for living in houses hasn't left enough room?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

sweatin' to the Tories

Man, this campaign website is incredible. Just let the introduction play. If the music keeps looping I'm going to start working out to it.

Odd though that her CV neglects the last few years of her life. She must not have been doing anything of political relevance.

London North Centre will shortly have the Liberal representation it deserves, for the first time in a long time. But how Pearson will counter that flash intro, I don't know.