Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Quebec Nation, Part I

Back by popular demand: a post from October.

Harvard is a Nation, too

Today, in the Globe and Mail, Ignatieff shows why he's not the guy for the federal Liberals:"Quebeckers, moreover, have come to understand themselves as a nation, with a language, history, culture and territory that marks them out as a separate people. Quebec is a civic nation, not an ethnic nation. More than 5,000 nations are recognized as such in the world, but there are fewer than 200 states at the United Nations."

If anything, it's the other way around. Ethnic-based nationalism is precisely the problem with Quebec. It has been since the emergence of the survivance movement in the late 19th century. Far too often, Quebec nationalism has a noxious chauvinism to it that reached its nadir during World War II, when much of the clerical and civil elite sympathized for the fascist Petain regime in Nazi-occupied France. Anyone who cannot see, or refuses to acknowledge, that the Quebec media and political elite sees the Quebec "nation" as the decendants of the settlers of the colony of New France is not dealing realistically with the issue of Quebec nationalism. Quebec nationalism was once built on the three pillars of Norman ethnicity, the French language and Roman Catholicism. Quebec has chucked the latter pillar, has adopted ludicruous and malicious language laws that blatantly violate individual rights to "save" the middle one, and pretends that the first one is simply a reflection of Quebec settlement. That's easy to do when you are unwilling to discuss the movement of more than one million non-Francophones from the province in the past thirty years, the "ethnic cleansing" of the old Anglophone populations of Quebec City, Montreal, the Eastern Townships and West Quebec, the officially-encouraged erasure of English place names, and the rest of the sordid acts done under the false and dishonest excuse of "protecting" French


Anonymous said...

You are confirming to me that Quebec will become the 207 nation sitting at the United-nations. I fell your ramblings are tainted by anti-Quebecois racism. I’m a French-speaking Quebecer who knows Quebec will be better off economically once its controls all its taxes.

I have two questions for you, open minded Mark Bourrie

Question 1

Explain to me the difference between

Ukraine being part of Russia or
Greece being part of the Ottoman Empire
Quebec being part of Canada

Question 2

If it’s good for Quebec to be part of Canada, why shouldn’t Canada be part of the United-States?

Maybe your answers will make me a federalist, I don’t know.

By the time you answer me, I will show your paper to my Quebecois friends of all origins. They will see that your comments is full of federalist none sense and reaffirm their separatist sentiments.

Continue to write separatist propaganda, and Quebec will have is chair at the United-Nations in 2008. Please go on.

Your human being brother.

Anonymous said...

anonymous: Question 1, the difference? History.

Question 2, why? History.

Ottawa Watch said...

Unlike Unkraine and Greece, Quebec has (a) agreed since the beginning to be paer of Canada and (b) voted twice in referenda to not only remain in Canada, but also to reject a vague offer of sovereignty'association.
Thus endeth the lesson.

Anonymous said...

As an English Ontarion, I have no problem with recognizing Quebec as a sort of nation, so long as it is one within Confederation. I say that because Quebec is vital to this country as a check and balance in so many different ways.

I'm not alone thinking that way. Look at the federal debates last election; believe it or not, alot of Anglophones felt admiration for Duceppe as he seemed to be the only one there who was being at all upfront about his goals.

Some of us don't want to lose Quebec and we're prepared to re-evaluate their status within Confederation. There are others who want to be uncompromising but it's not because they see this as a good strategy for keeping Quebec; they're mostly Albertan separatists-lite who hate Confederation and who know that it will strengthen the Bloc and weaken the federal government. Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed.

Ottawa Watch said...

That's fine. But calling it a "nation" means recognizing it as a country. Then it's just a matter of details.
Quebec will exist no matter what it calls itself or what others call it. It will exist whether it is within Canada or not. The House of Commons could rename it Norway and not a single thing could change, except for some federal signage.
But I believe these facts are self-evident:
1. In every vote for independence or quasi-independence, nationalists have lost.
2. Nationalists have never won a clear majority of votes in either a federal or provincial election.
3. Natioanlism has stunted the growth of Quebec, politically and economically. In 1967, Ontario and Quebec were the same population, with roughly the same GDP. Montreal was the largest city and the commercial centre of the country. Now, Ontario is roughly twice the size of Quebec. Toronto is twice the size of Montreal, which may fall to third place, behind Vancouver. Despite federal and provincial efforts at developing a financial and high-tech market, and laws saying Air Canada and Via Rail must be headquartered in Montreal, Toronto is, by far, the more important commercial centre.Montreal is not only relatively unimportant outside of Quebec in Canada, it is not an important city in North America.
4. Physically, Quebec is large enough to seem like a country. In terms of population, it is insignificant.
5. An independent Quebec would be on its ownin terms of dealing with U.S. culture, U.S. media, multinational conglomerates, American military requests and perhaps demands, and the U.S. government.
6. Quebec does not produce a single item of trade that is not produced elsewhere, usually more cheaply: lumber; paper; ores; pharmaceuticals; light machinery. Quebec does not have a drop of oil and nomarketable coal. It doesn't have a single steel mill.
7. Quebec cannot claim special political and trade status while, at the same time, claiming the right to unilaterally pick and choose those links.

Tim FitzGerald said...

Firstly, I think your reference to ethnic cleansing is wrong, inflammatory and only deepens the cleft between English- and French-speaking Canadians. To compare Lévesque and post-Lévesque policy - as unfair or unconstitutional as it may have been/be to minority communities as well as the francophone majority - to the hateful crimes against humanity committed in the name of racial supremacy as we've seen in Rwanda, the Balkans or Nazi Europe is as bad as, if not worse, than any vitriolic anglophobic crap I've ever heard in Quebec.

Secondly, I think that there is a distinction between "nation" and "country" that you don't recognize. The two words can be used synonymously but a nation does not mean a nation-state. At most, it means that this nation has a right to self-determination - a fact no one has contested in the case of Quebec thus far. (If you want to veer into relativism, you could argue that even "country" doesn't necessarily mean sovereign state, cf. the countries of the United Kingdom).

All of your facts that you list seem correct to me, and make good economic arguments for not separating Quebec from Canada, but they are not relevant to the question of national identity.

Academics can't agree on any one definition, and God knows Canadian politicians are doing a botch job, but in my own opinion, "nationality" has to do with identity, both your own sense of belonging to a national identity (with all its implications from social values to common experience of culture) and how others see you and categorize you. In this sense, you'll never find satisfactory objective criteria for determining who is a Quebec national other than "Do you feel Québécois?"

Personally, what I see as a point of contention for many people, is that, basing solely on the nation-state premise, Quebec has more legitimacy than does the Canadian Confederation (which, it can be readily argued, was built more for reasons of commerical interest and mutual protection than out of a desire to unite as one people). Most all nationalism is manufactured, but the raw materials for Quebec's are fresh for the picking - no one can deny the distinct linguistic, cultural and historical make-up of the Quebecois - whereas Canada's is more laboured - its distinction from its neighbour to the South isn't as evident to the outsider and needs more explanation.

Myself - and I don't know if its postmodern or just crackpot - but I see in myself and many peers of my generation and dual, complementary identity that I harmonize with all my other identities (as a family member, person of Irish decent, anglophone, my political affiliantions, my interests, etc.) that make me an individual.

But all of this is rather academic... isn't there real things that need doing?

Ottawa Watch said...

I don't think "ethnic cleansing" is a poorly-used phrase. Losing a million minority people, and not caring -- in fact, encouraging them to go with racist language and education laws -- and wiping the placenames of their communities from the map and their contribution to the province from the history books certainly qualifies.
I know what "nation" means in this case. It means an ethnic Francophone ethnic, cultural, linguistic and political entity that will eventually assert its right to self-determination. The Quebecois nation and the First Nations are recognized as entitied by the federal government. The latter are being given (or having returned to them) greater amounts of sovereignty. The former will strengthen its power in a decentralized federation, amassing national legitimacy in an asymetrical federation, then leave.
Can you tell me, with clear conscience, that in the medium and long-term, there will be any other outcome? I believe it will happen much sooner than anyone thinks. It is the way of the world: more ethnic entities reaching for self-determination. Only the EU has bucked the trend (in some ways). They have seen what nationalism is and what it does, and they learned the hard way.